Court Orders Dotcom’s Megavideo to Pay $13.4m For TV Show Piracy

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An Italian court has ordered Kim Dotcom's Megavideo to pay $13.4m in damages after making TV shows available without permission. The roots of the case date back to 2010 when TV company RTI sent Megavideo takedown notices, without specifying any URLs. The court found that the URLs weren't needed.

megavideoKim Dotcom’s Megaupload empire was shuttered in 2012 with dramatic raids in New Zealand and legal action on several continents. Nevertheless, the drama continues.

The entrepreneur and his former colleagues are fighting on several fronts, including extradition cases in New Zealand plus pending copyright, racketeering and money laundering charges in the United States. Interestingly, another case has just emerged out of the shadows in Europe.

Megavideo, Megaupload’s sister site, was focused on storing videos uploaded by its users. Predictably, however, thousands of these videos were movies and TV shows, for which Megaupload users held no copyrights.

Some of that content belonged to TV company RTI (Reti Televisive Italiane), a subsidiary of Mediaset, the media giant founded by former Italian president Silvio Berlusconi. In an effort to have that content removed, in 2010 RTI says it contacted Megavideo with takedown requests, takedowns which the company failed to act upon.

This prompted RTI to take Megavideo to court, claiming that the video hosting platform had infringed its broadcasting rights and engaged in unfair competition. RTI asked the court to order Megavideo to take down the unauthorized content and award damages of more than $110m.

The unfair competition claim gained no traction but the Tribunale di Roma has just handed down its decision and its bad news for Megavideo.

The Court found that the Hong Kong-based video hosting platform illegally distributed more than 16,000 minutes of RTI programming and ordered it to pay the equivalent of $13.4m in damages, plus more than $60,000 in legal costs.

In Megavideo’s absence (the company did not defend itself), the Court considered whether the platform could enjoy safe harbor as a hosting provider.

Megavideo failed on a number of points, notably by organizing content into various categories, placing advertising based on the geo-locations of its users, and lifting viewing limitations on users after they paid a subscription.

But perhaps the most curious element of the case surrounds the takedown notices RTI sent to Megavideo back in 2010.

While most DMCA-style efforts must include an offending URL so that platforms are easily able to identify the content in question, RTI offered Megavideo no such luxury. The TV company simply advised the hosting platform that its TV shows were on the site and ordered it to take them down.

Strangely the Court found that this was enough information for Megavideo to act on the allegations of infringement. In a partial translation of the ruling, IPKitten has the Court noting that “the information included in those takedown requests was sufficient to allow the defendant to take action to prevent the continuation of the infringement of [RTI’s] rights.”

Even in the absence of the takedowns, the Court added that “the defendant could easily and independently acquire knowledge of such infringements, both because of the notoriety of the TV programmes in question and the relevant broadcasting channels and, in particular, the presence RTI’s distinctive signs on all TV programmes’ extracts.”

In the overall scheme of things the ruling probably represents a minor setback for Kim Dotcom, but the notion that copyright holders can send extremely general takedown requests to hosting platforms and expect them to take action is a worrying one that might not be supported under EU law.

Kim Dotcom did not immediately respond to our requests for comment.

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