Plex is a multifunctional media software and service that allows users to easily access all of their entertainment in one place.
The company was founded in 2009 and today boasts 16 million active monthly streaming users, making Plex a serious market player.
Most people use the service for perfectly legitimate purposes. On the fringes, however, some users abuse the software to share pirate libraries publicly, a considerable thorn in the side for rightsholders.
A few weeks ago Plex announced that it would take action against abusive practices. In an apparent attempt to stop widespread copyright infringement, the service announced that it would ban servers hosted at Hetzner, as these are frequently linked to terms of service violations.
Plex never confirmed that copyright infringement concerns were behind this decision, but that would be the most logical explanation. The company is focusing more and more on offering legal streaming media and would like to shake off copyright infringement associations.
ZUMA Press Sues Plex
Although Plex hasn’t been sued by any major Hollywood players, the company is currently involved in a peculiar copyright infringement lawsuit.
A few weeks ago, ZUMA Press filed a complaint at a federal court in California, accusing Plex of using a photo of actress Cuca Escribano on its website, without permission. The photo was shot by Jose Perez Gegundez who typically licenses it to third parties for a fee.
Plex allegedly used the photo without permission, which the photographer’s licensing partner ZUMA Press discovered in April of last year.
“Without permission or authorization from Plaintiff, Defendant volitionally copied and/or displayed Plaintiff’s copyright protected Photograph on the Website,” the complaint reads.
At the time of writing the photo is no longer hosted on Plex’s website or server but an exhibit shared by the plaintiffs shows that this was the case previously. The same photo is still in use by The Movie DB, one of Plex’s data suppliers.
ZUMA Press alerted Plex to the alleged copyright infringement on March 2 this year. Whether that was a simple takedown notice or whether there were further demands attached isn’t clear, but the press agency wasn’t happy.
“Plaintiff, via counsel, served a letter by electronic mail to Defendant seeking to address the complaints contained herein concerning Defendant’s infringement of Plaintiff’s rights-protected works, to no avail,” the complaint reads.
Plex has yet to respond to the complaint but it seems likely that the company would like to resolve this matter without much fanfare. As the Hetzner ban shows, the company has little interest in copyright controversies.
A copy of the complaint is available here (pdf). Plex is expected to file a response later this month. There is just one photo mentioned in the lawsuit, which means that the potential damages are limited