Every year the US Trade Representative (USTR) asks interested stakeholders to identify ‘notorious’ foreign piracy markets.
The responses that come in list the Pirate Bay’s of this world, but also sites and services that don’t see themselves as pirate markets.
The Polish video-on-demand (VOD) platform CDA.pl falls in the latter category. Last year the video service was already branded a pirate site by MPA America (formerly the MPAA), and this year the movie industry group submitted pretty much the same remarks.
“Cda.pl is Poland’s most popular piracy website, eclipsing several legitimate VOD services in the country,” MPA wrote in its submission.
The movie and video industry group further informed the USTR that the “notorious” site is operated by “Comedian S.A.” and uses the services of Cloudflare to mask its IP-address, making it harder for copyright holders to identify the hosting location.
This is all nonsense, according to CDA.pl. The company that owns the VOD service makes this clear in a rebuttal sent to the USTR late last week. For starters, it points out that the site is not managed by Comedian S.A., which may not even exist, but by another Polish company aptly named CDA S.A.
This is not some shady website that’s run from someone’s basement, but a tax-paying joint-stock company.
“CDA S.A. is a public joint-stock company, with its business seat in Wroclaw (Poland), operating in full transparency, fulfilling all of its legal obligations and publishing all relevant information in the way determined by the law and internal stock exchange regulations,” the rebuttal reads.
The company accuses MPA of spreading false information. It assures the US government that it is not a piracy website, adding that it operates in full accordance with the Polish and European legal regulations.
CDA.pl says that it shares its profits directly with rightsholders. They pay commissions that are based on subscription revenues, which make up over 90% of the site’s income.
The site also has a subscription-free section where users can upload files. This part is monetized through advertisements. MPA’s complaints are likely related to the latter, but CDA.pl stresses that ads are only displayed on content uploaded by verified users and partners.
The rebuttal also stresses that the VOD platform has a fully functional notice and takedown system that allows rightsholders to remove infringing content. Some companies, including Warner Bros. and Fox, are even permitted to remove content directly, without CDA getting in the way.
According to CDA, the pirate label is grossly inaccurate. The company is a fully-functional legal entity that’s even listed on the NewConnect stock exchange. This means that, in addition to tax reporting obligations, it’s also subject to various EU stock exchanges and financial regulations.
That the MPA persists in branding the site as a notorious market, hurts the company’s image and causes financial damage, CDA notes. Among other things, CDA’s listing on the New Connect stock exchange was delayed earlier this year.
This year’s renewed allegations are bound to cause trouble as well, the company predicts.
“The MPAA’s letter which indicates CDA.pl website as a pirate site and unfairly lists it along with other websites widely known for their notoriety in copyright violations […] negatively affect the image of the Company and thus negatively influence the interest of potential investors which may lead to occurring significant financial losses by my Client,” the rebuttal reads.
According to CDA, it was never approached directly by the MPA(A), nor did the industry group respond to a letter the company sent in response to last year’s allegations.
The Polish VOD service makes it clear that it wants the false accusations to stop. It believes that this may not even be about piracy per se, but more an attempt to quash the competition. Several MPA members have their own VOD platforms, CDA mentions.
“lt is also worth noting that some of the members of the MPAA can be considered as competitors of the Company and its services, who develop their own VOD services on the Polish market, where CDA.pl currently has the biggest share (sVOD section). Therefore, MPAA’s opinion re. CDA.pl presented to this Office cannot be treated as objective but rather as a means of pressure on competition.”
The full rebuttal sent by CDA is available here (pdf). Last year the USTR decided not to include the service in its final overview of notorious markets and the company hopes to achieve the same result again.