MPAA Wins $19.8 Million From Pirate Site Pubfilm

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A New York federal court has issued a default judgment against pirate streaming site Pubfilm in favor of the MPAA. The movie studios were granted nearly $20 million in statutory damages and an order to have the site's domain names permanently seized. Taking the site down completely might be easier said than done, however.

In recent years the MPAA has pursued legal action against several pirate sites and the streaming service Pubfilm is one of their latest targets.

Hollywood’s industry group initially kept the lawsuit secret. This was done to prevent Pubfilm’s operator from moving to a new domain preemptively. While this strategy worked, Pubfilm didn’t throw in the towel.

Soon after the pubfilm.com domain name was suspended, the site moved to pubfilm.ac. And that wasn’t all. Pubfilm also started to actively advertise its new domain through Google Adsense to regain its lost traffic.

Today, close to a year has passed and Pubfilm is still around. The site moved from domain to domain and currently resides at Pubfilm.is and a few other domains that are advertised on the site.

All this time the company failed to responded in court, so the case saw little movement. This week, however, the MPAA made its demands clear and soon after the court issued a default against the site and its unknown operators.

“Defendants are Internet pirates who own, operate, and promote a ring of interconnected websites under the name “PubFilm” and variants thereof whose purpose is to profit from the infringement of copyrighted works,” the group wrote in its request.

Because of this continued infringement, the MPAA demanded the maximum amount of statutory copyright infringement damages. With 132 titles listed in the complaint, this totals nearly $20 million.

“Given the egregious circumstances of this case, Plaintiffs should be awarded the full amount of statutory damages of $150,000 for each of the 132 Works identified in the Complaint, for a total of $19,800,000,” the MPAA writes in its memorandum.

In addition, the Hollywood studios requested a permanent injunction that will require domain registries to put associated domain names on hold and sign them over to the MPAA.

Both requests were granted by the court on Thursday.

Pubfilm domain hopping

Previously, several domain names were aready seized through a preliminary injunction that resulted in Pubfilm moving from domain to domain in recent months. While these seizures can be effective, not all domain registries will comply with a US court order.

One of Pubfilm’s main domain names at the moment uses the Icelandic .is cTLD. In the past, Iceland’s domain registry ISNIC told TorrentFreak that it would only take action when an Icelandic Court tells it to.

This means that the MPAA’s win might be one without teeth.

Getting millions of dollars from an anonymous site operator, presumably outside the United States, is not easy. And since the site still has several hard-to-shutdown domains, taking it offline isn’t that straightforward either.

The streaming site operators didn’t appear to be impressed by the legal battle either. For the time being, they seem more concerned with fighting fake versions, judging from their most recent Facebook update.

Pubfilm’s latest Facebook post

A copy of the MPAA’s Memorandum in support of the default judgment and permanent injunction is available here (pdf). A copy of court’s order can be found here (pdf).

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