OVH Slapped with $188m Lawsuit for Passing on “Pirate” Traffic

OVH, a French hosting company with datacenters all around the world, has been sued for copyright infringement at a federal court in California. The complaint filed by adult magazine publisher Perfect 10 accuses the hosting provider of servicing several "pirate" websites as well as allowing infringing traffic to pass through its Internet backbone.

ovh-logoPerfect 10 are no strangers to lawsuits. From 2005 to the present day they have sued several huge companies for either allegedly using their images without permission or somehow being connected to infringements.

Notable among them are Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Giganews, Megaupload, Depositfiles Mastercard, Visa and Leaseweb. While Perfect 10 lacks a clear victory, it has achieved several settlements which has motivated the company to continue its legal crusade.

Late last week the publisher moved on to its next target, hosting company OVH. In their complaint Perfect 10 accuses the French company of providing hosting services to several websites that store pirated copies of their images.

“Defendants host and provide Internet connectivity and other essential services to websites, including infringing websites operated in California that have infringed tens of thousands of Perfect 10 Copyrighted Works,” the complaint states.

According to Perfect 10, OVH currently hosts over a dozen websites which store their work without permission, including celeb.to, celebforum.to, daily-ladies.com, gallery-dump.com, erooups.com, gophoto.us, hatuncenter.net, imagechunk.com, sualize.us, imgmaster.net, imagerise.com, ohfree.net, pixhost.eu and redblow.com.

The magazine publisher argues that OVH is directly responsible for these copyright infringements committed by its customers. The company says it sent 17 DMCA notices to OVH since 2011, identifying more than 12,000 infringing images, and believes the hosting provider should have taken the URLs in question offline.

“Defendants could have and should have ended the infringement by processing Perfect 10’s DMCA notices and removing the infringing images or by refusing to host the identified allegedly infringing websites, among other things,” the complaint explains.

“Defendants have failed to take such action and have failed to remove the infringing material that Perfect 10 has identified in its DMCA notices. Defendants’ conduct has caused, and continues to cause, severe and irreparable harm to Perfect 10,” they add.

The allegation doesn’t come as a surprise as hosting providers generally don’t take action based on DMCA takedown notices. Instead, they forward them to their clients, who are then responsible for resolving the issue. However, it appears that Perfect 10 wants to challenge this safe harbor principle.

Interestingly, OVH’s hosting services are not the only problem. In addition to the pirate sites, the company is also accused of passing on copyright-infringing Internet traffic of Google and other third-party sites through its American backbone.

“Third-party websites located in the United States, including Google.com, msn.com, yahoo.com, and blekko.com, among many others, have copied, distributed, and/or displayed thousands of infringing Perfect 10 Copyrighted Works hosted by Defendants. Defendants host and provide Internet connectivity and other essential services for these websites,” the complaint reads.

In an accusation that pretty much targets the core of the Internet, Perfect 10 believes that OVH should have taken action against the infringing files that pass through or are hosted in its network. Because OVH failed to do so, the publisher claims that it suffered significant losses and is now demanding the maximum statutory damages of $150,000 per infringement.

In theory this could get quite expensive. With a total of 1256 listed infringements OVH is facing up to $188 million in damages. However, considering Perfect 10’s track record in court the magazine publisher will probably be happy to settle for a tiny fraction of that.

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