The latest action involves two of the region’s largest streaming sites, peliculaspepito.com seriespepito.com. The portals had a combined audience of 2.5 million visits per month, with Seriespepito.com taking the larger share as Spain’s 69th most popular site.
A court injunction served on ISPs including Telefónica, Ono, Jazztel. Orange and Vodafone and R Cable blocked access to the sites yesterday. Two men were arrested by police and taken away for questioning.
The investigation into the sites began in May after a complaint was filed at Court No.3 of Elche by anti-piracy group FAP and major film producers including 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Disney, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Sony Pictures.
The movie companies complained that the sites provided links to other sites where it was possible to stream or download thousands of movies and TV shows without permission, generating thousands of euros in advertising revenue along the way.
An investigation found that the sites were both owned by Zeniox Media SL, a company founded in 2007 and headquartered in the coastal city of Elche. Police uncovered several bank and PayPal accounts which revealed that over the past three years the company generated revenues of 1,085,000 euros.
The individuals targeted yesterday were the company’s operators. Detained following raids in the cities of Madrid and Alicante, the men aged 20 and 30 were questioned and subsequently charged with intellectual property crime offenses.
“Through these popular websites an act of public communication is made, being the means by which a number of people can access protected audiovisual content. The large amount of unauthorized content brings immense losses to the film industry,” police said in a statement.
But while the police seem confident that crimes have been committed, the men’s lawyer sees things rather differently.
Citing an October 2014 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Carlos Sánchez Almeida says that judges have “ruled repeatedly” that offering links to content does not amount to communicating a work to the public.
Almeida also describes police claims of more than a million euros generated from advertising and premium accounts as “bloated” since not all of the men’s business activities were Internet related. The raids on his clients came as no surprise, however.
“This is typical of the complaints these websites have been suffering since 2003,” Almeida says. “We don’t find this strange at all. Every December there is always a spectacular operation.”
Police say that both men face penalties of hundreds of thousands of euros or even prison sentences.