PrimeWire Replacement HydraWire Sacrifices Itself to Hollywood

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A lawsuit filed last year by several Hollywood studios and Netflix targeting illegal streaming veteran PrimeWire now resembles a war of attrition. As efforts to gather intelligence and seize domains continue, the studios have also been dealing with PrimeWire replacement 'HydraWire'. But despite the numerous hurdles, all signs point to the plaintiffs toughing the case out for as long as it takes.

mpaIn April 2022, several Hollywood studios and Netflix won an injunction to shut down PrimeWire, a long-standing illegal streaming site and continuous thorn in the side of the MPA.

The injunction was granted after the studios filed a massive copyright infringement lawsuit against PrimeWire in 2021. It aimed to close the platform down for a good after close to a decade of disruption activity against the site produced somewhat limited results. This time around the studios have the upper hand but not without some complications.

PrimeWire Inactive But Domains Mostly Intact

After the injunction was handed down the US, PrimeWire initially took no action but eventually modified its operations and pledged to offer a legitimate service.

The studios didn’t believe a single word and moved to seize new domain, hoping to add it to a list of other PrimeWire domains already subject to disabling and seizure. On that front, and .vc are non-operational but and remain in use.

At the time of writing the same is true for but last month a new domain entered the mix.

The Rapid Rise and Fall of HydraWire

At the end of May, the MPA’s anti-piracy team became of a new site called HydraWire. Its .tv domain had been registered a day after the MPA won its preliminary injunction in April and as far as the studios were concerned, this was just PrimeWire by another name.

Evidence presented in court made that assertion difficult to challenge but with the site gaining traffic, it needed to be stopped as soon as possible. The studios decided that should be added to the now permanent injunction but perhaps didn’t anticipate what came next.

On July 19 and on behalf of the studios, an attorney at law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP submitted a message via the contact form at HydraWire giving notice of their upcoming motion.

In common with the people behind PrimeWire, who haven’t appeared in court but have communicated anonymously with the plaintiffs, the alleged owner of HydraWire also responded anonymously two days later. The message was that the intentions of HydraWire’s operator had been misunderstood by the plaintiffs.

“The sender of this email claims to have launched HydraWire. They say they did so because they ‘saw an opportunity to have a website with lot[s] of visitors’ and ‘wanted to continue [PrimeWire’s] legacy’,” the studios informed the court this week.

“The emailer then said they had ‘shut down hydrawire for good’ and offered to ‘transfer the domain’ to Plaintiffs.”

HydraWire Throws in the Towel

Swift resolutions haven’t featured prominently in the case thus far so the MPA’s anti-piracy team wasted no time in seizing the opportunity.

“In an effort to put a temporary stop to this latest infringement of their rights, Plaintiffs accepted the transfer of the domain and took control of the domain, which is now offline,” the studios reveal.

Jan Van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Chief of Global Content Protection, reveals the process began quickly and was over in a week.

“On or about July 23, 2022, GCP investigators used the authorization code provided in correspondence from [email address] to initiate a transfer of the domain to the MPA’s control. On or about August 1, 2022, GCP investigators confirmed that has been transferred to the MPA,” his declaration reads.

MPA Still Wants Added to Injunction

While this domain takeover was comparatively easy, the studios are still taking time to keep the court informed of every new detail. They’re also building a pretty solid picture of the plaintiffs doing everything by the book and the defendants falling short in every possible way.

Aside from PrimeWire’s general failure to appear, the studios strongly suspect that by following the PrimeWire ‘playbook’ of apparent capitulation in the face of an injunction, those behind HydraWire betrayed their connections. The MPA’s anti-piracy team appear unable to prove they’ve been talking to the same people but for now at least, that doesn’t matter.

The plaintiffs say that HydraWire was inspired by PrimeWire and was designed to continue its legacy. Text from PrimeWire was duplicated on HydraWire and there was a feature for PrimeWire users to migrate their libraries across. The very appearance of HydraWire showed disrespect for the court injunction and at any minute it could reappear under a new domain to rinse and repeat, they add.

“For these reasons, as well as those stated in Plaintiffs’ motion, Plaintiffs respectfully request that the Court grant their motion to modify the permanent injunction and extend the time for Defendants to take discovery in support of their damages claims,” the motion concludes.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this and earlier motions is the determination of the MPA to punish any move designed to breathe new life into PrimeWire. It’s certainly possible that other ventures under different branding are already making headway but, given the pressure, the original PrimeWire seems unlikely to have a future in any obviously recognizable form.

The motion and supporting documents can be found here (1,2,3, pdf)


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