A regular website can be easily hosted in most countries of the world but when the nature of the project begins to step on toes, opportunities begin to reduce. Openly hosting The Pirate Bay, for example, is something few providers want to get involved with.
There are, however, providers out there who specialize in hosting services that others won’t touch. They develop a reputation of turning a blind eye to their customers’ activities, only reacting when a crisis looms on the horizon. Despite the problems, there are a few that are surprisingly resilient.
One such host is Netherlands-based Ecatel, which has hit the headlines many times over the years for allegedly having customers involved in warez, torrents, and streaming, not to mention spam and malware. For hosting the former group, it’s now in the crosshairs of Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.
According to an application for a witness hearing filed with The Court of the Hague by BREIN, Ecatel has repeatedly hosted websites dealing in infringing content over recent years. While this is nothing particularly out of the ordinary, BREIN claims that complaints filed against the sites were dealt with slowly by Ecatel or not at all.
Ecatel Ltd is a company incorporated in the UK with servers in the Netherlands but since 2015, another hosting company called Novogara has appeared in tandem. Court documents suggest that Novogara is associated with Ecatel, something that was confirmed early 2016 in an email sent out by Ecatel itself.
“We’d like to inform you that all services of Ecatel Ltd are taken over by a new brand called Novogara Ltd with immediate effect. The take-over includes Ecatel and all her subsidiaries,” the email read.
Muddying the waters a little more, in 2015 Ecatel’s IP addresses were apparently taken over by Quasi Networks Ltd, a Seychelles-based company whose business is described locally as being conducted entirely overseas.
“Stichting BREIN has found several websites in the network of Quasi Networks with obviously infringing content. Quasi Networks, however, does not respond structurally to requests for closing those websites. This involves unlawful acts against the parties associated with the BREIN Foundation,” a ruling from the Court reads.
As a result, BREIN wants a witness hearing with three defendants connected to the Ecatel/Novgara/Quasi group of companies in order to establish the relationship between the businesses, where their servers are, and who is behind Quasi Networks.
“Stichting BREIN is interested in this information in order to be able to judge who it can appeal to and whether it is useful to start a legal procedure,” the Court adds.
Two of the defendants failed to lodge a defense against BREIN’s application but one objected to the request for a hearing. He said that since Quasi Networks, Ecatel and Novogara are all incorporated outside the Netherlands, a trial must also be conducted abroad and therefore a Dutch judge would not have jurisdiction.
He also argued that BREIN would use the witness hearing as a “fishing expedition” in order to gather information it currently does not have, in order to formulate some kind of case against the defendants, in one way or another.
In a decision published this week, The Court of the Hague rejected that argument, noting that the basis for the claim is copyright infringement through Netherlands-hosted websites. Furthermore, the majority of the witnesses are resident in the district of The Hague. It also underlined the importance of a hearing.
“The request for holding a preliminary witness hearing opens an independent petition procedure, which does not address the eligibility of any claim that may be lodged. An investigation must be made by the judge who has to deal with and decide the main case – if it comes.
“The court points out that a preliminary witness hearing is now (partly) necessary to clarify whether and to what extent a claim has any chance of success,” the decision reads.
According to documents published by Companies House in the UK, Ecatel Ltd ceased to exist this morning, having been dissolved at the request of its directors.
The hearing of the witnesses is set to take place on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 9.30 in the Palace of Justice at Prince Claus 60 in The Hague.
Update: Comment from BREIN chief, Tim Kuik;
“The procedure is a hearing under oath of three persons regarding the transfer of activities from Ecatel to among others Quasi. The recent decision regards the rejection of their objection to this hearing which will now go ahead,” Kuik explains.
“Ecatel has been known as a so-called bullet proof hoster for quite some while. This has had the result that Ecatel has been named by various sources as a hoster for a range of sites engaged in all kinds of illegal activities. This function appears to be taken over by Quasi in what seems to be an effort to hide those responsible for its activities.”