Three weeks ago a high quality leak of the upcoming The Expendables 3 film appeared online.
Fearing a massive loss in revenue, movie studio Lionsgate sued the operators of six websites that allegedly failed to remove the infringing files – Limetorrents.com, Billionuploads.com, Hulkfile.eu, Played.to, Swankshare.com and Dotsemper.com.
A few days ago the court sided with Lionsgate and granted a preliminary injunction to seize the financial assets of the site’s operators. In addition the sites were forbidden from linking to the infringing material. Since this includes user uploaded files, the order effectively means that the sites have to shut down.
Today the broad order claimed its first major casualty in cloud hosting provider Hulkfile. The company informs TorrentFreak that it has disabled access to all visitors from the United States and that it intends to shut down globally during the coming days.
“Hulkfile.eu is no longer accessible in the U.S. and will shut down completely soon. We can’t keep building our business on the weak base the preliminary injunction left us with,” Hulkfile’s operator says.
Hulkfile believes that Lionsgate has painted a tainted picture of its service to the U.S. federal court. The file-storage service says it honors all takedown requests, and even developed a special removal tool for copyright holders which is used by various takedown services.
“We’re not doing anything wrong, it’s a service just like any other cloud storage service in the world. If Hulkfile was started to support piracy, then why would we have created a takedown system which provided access to more than 40 copyright holders and piracy fighters?”
The takedown notices Lionsgate sent for the Expendables leak hadn’t been processed yet due to the vacation period, the hosting service claims. The movie studio could have taken the links down themselves if they used Hulkfile’s removal tool, but Lionsgate’s takedown partner MarkMonitor has apparently shown no interest in using it.
“We showed good faith by providing access to a removal tool which MarkMonitor never asked to gain access to, even after we offered it multiple times. Every day there is a new file-sharing service launching somewhere. The only way for copyright holders to protect their material is to cooperate, not to fight,” Hulkfile tells TF.
With an injunction that basically prevents Hulkfile from operating its service, the company sees no other option than to throw in the towel. Users will get the option to transfer their files to another hosting provider, but Hulkfile will not come back after that.
It seems that Hulkfile is not the only casualty. The smaller file-sharing service Swankshare completely vanished from the Internet shortly after the court issued its preliminary injunction. It’s currently unknown whether this site plans to stay down for good.
While the Expendables leak posed a serious threat to Lionsgate’s revenue, one has to wonder whether this justifies putting several other companies out of business with such broad injunctions. In particular because Hulkfile and others had no real option to defend themselves due to the ex-parte nature of the order.
Considering the ‘success’ booked by Lionsgate in such a small time period it’s safe to expect that more movie companies will use the same strategy in the future.