A group of movie production outfits, including affiliates of the film studios Millennium Media, Voltage Pictures and CineTel Film, has taken legal action against key piracy players in recent years.
The makers of films such as “Hunter Killer,” “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” and “London Has Fallen,” have gone after individual file-sharers, apps such as Popcorn Time and Showbox, and pirate sites including YTS.
VPN.ht and Popcorntime.app
Earlier this month, the movie companies expanded their efforts by targeting VPN providers. This includes a lawsuit against VPN.ht, which was sued in tandem with a Popcorn Time app and hosting provider Voxility.
VPN providers are generally neutral services that simply route the traffic of their customers. However, according to a complaint filed at a Virginia federal court, VPN.ht went much further than that. The movie companies accuse the service of actively promoting piracy.
Thus far, VPN.ht has yet to respond in court and the same is true for the operators of the Popcorn Time app.
The plaintiffs aren’t sitting still though. This week, they filed an amended complaint, naming Mohamed Amine Faouani as the sole operator of VPN.ht parent company ‘Wicked Technology’. The movie companies allege that the VPN previously operated through a Belize company, which was dissolved after it was named in a Canadian Popcorn Time lawsuit.
The amended complaint also adds the Hawaiian company 42 Ventures as a plaintiff. This company, which lists attorney Kerry Culpepper as director, owns the Popcorn Time trademark which it previously used to negotiate a settlement with the Popcorntime.app operators.
The rightsholders accuse both VPN.ht and Popcorn Time of encouraging and facilitating copyright infringement, as we previously reported in detail here. Interestingly, Voxility is no longer listed as a defendant, but it’s not clear why the company was dropped.
Freeze PayPal Funds
Shortly after updating the complaint, the rightsholders asked the court for a restraining order to freeze the PayPal funds of VPN.ht’s parent company ‘Wicked Technology’ and prevent the Popcorntime.app domain from being transferred.
In their motion, the companies mention that the owner previously dissolved the Belize company after running into legal issues, so they want to make sure that the funds are properly secured.
“Without the temporary restraining order requested, Plaintiffs will likely suffer irreparable harm because the Wicked Defendants will transfer the funds from PayPal to a different provider in a foreign jurisdiction,” their motion reads.
The movie companies don’t know how much money is in the PayPal account, but they believe that it’s less than the potential damages, which add up to several million dollars.
“Although Plaintiffs do not know the balance of the Wicked Defendants’ PayPal accounts, it is likely that the amount of damages to which Plaintiffs are entitled […] far exceed any amount contained in any of their PayPal accounts.”
More Info From PayPal, Cloudflare and GitHub
The plaintiffs further request permission to obtain information from PayPal regarding VPN.ht’s transactions. In addition, they want Github and Cloudflare to share any information they have on the anonymous operators of Popcorntime.app.
“Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court grant them permission to conduct limited expedited third-party discovery directed to PayPal, Github and CloudFlare for the purpose of seeking to identify Defendants and the scope of each Defendants’ activities,” they write.
The court filings show that the movie companies and Culpepper are maintaining their pressure on the defendants. For now, neither VPN.ht nor Popcorntine.app have responded to the allegations but both remain online.
A copy of the amended complaint is available here (pdf) and the request for a preliminary injunction and expedited discovery can be found here (pdf)