Major Hollywood studios Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner, plus relative newcomer Netflix, are all members of the Motion Picture Association (MPA). They have something else in common too.
Every single minute of every single day, rain or shine, people can be found pirating their movies and TV shows online. In Netflix’s case, that means every single piece of content the company has ever produced.
For studios with longer histories and huge catalogs of movies and TV shows, piracy doesn’t win the Oscar for Total Content Coverage, but still gets top marks for effort on top of its annual lifetime achievement award. Hollywood’s corporate sheen and projections of wealth have a tendency to suffocate public empathy, but on any level, that must be pretty intolerable.
Lawsuit Against PrimeWire
When Hollywood sued PrimeWire in late 2021, the only surprise was the timing. For more than a decade, PrimeWire had played a key role in illegally streaming many thousands of movies and TV shows, perhaps hundreds of millions of times.
The studios received annual licensing payments of absolutely nothing but were spending money on lawyers in site-blocking actions in multiple countries. PrimeWire’s operator/s never appeared in any of them, most likely too busy running the site and circumventing site-blocking orders.
The same applied in the U.S. lawsuit. In the site’s absence, the studios’ attorneys methodically obtained an injunction to shut PrimeWire down, but faced with overseas entities reluctant to take action, PrimeWire never went completely offline.
Can’t Kill What You Can’t See
Links to movies and TV shows did disappear from PrimeWire for a while but the studios weren’t taking the bait. They were already engaged in a compelling investigation to identify PrimeWire’s operator/s.
In most shutdown operations, unmasking the target is a priority. Taking a domain or shutting down hosting is the equivalent of shooting a zombie in the body; somewhat irritating but easy to recover from. Unmasking, on the other hand, opens up the possibility of a clean headshot and the elimination of potential resurrections.
Studios Win Lawsuit
In December 2022, the studios’ hard work and patience paid off when they were awarded $20.7m in statutory copyright infringement damages. PrimeWire’s conduct was slammed by the judge as “willful” and “particularly egregious,” with a particular focus on the fact that the site’s operators had avoided his courtroom.
Whether those barbed comments were ever heard at PrimeWire HQ, wherever that might be, is unknown. More importantly, the operator/s of PrimeWire were never found and still remain anonymous. The likelihood of the studios receiving $20.7m seems vanishingly small. Likewise, more than $417,000 racked up on attorneys fees.
And the Overall Winner is….
At the time of writing, PrimeWire is still operating from primewire.tf, a domain that should’ve been seized, but clearly has not. On pages where movies are listed, links to third-party hosting sites, including 2embed, OnionShare, CrocoVid, and HDOnline, supply the same content the studios spent a fortune trying to take down.
On this basis, it would be easy to conclude that the lawsuit was a waste of time and an even bigger waste of money. After all, what’s the use of a $20.7m judgment when nobody knows who’s supposed to pay it? Perhaps the bigger question is whether it would’ve been paid even under different circumstances.
The key question, then, is whether the MPA’s lawsuit achieved its main objective.
When the MPA sued PrimeWire in 2021, the site had been enjoying “approximately 20 million monthly visits.” Infringement levels were reported as “breathtaking” along with the following statement:
“In less than three years, [PrimeWire’s] U.S. user base has grown from less than 1 million monthly visits to approximately 20 million monthly visits,” the plaintiffs wrote.
Three or four months after the lawsuit was filed, traffic levels began to fall.
Blatantly repurposing the MPA’s original traffic statement provides a fairly accurate representation of the position today.
Three years after the MPA filed its lawsuit, PrimeWire’s entire user base has shrunk from 20 million monthly visits to less than a million monthly visits.
Who knows what PrimeWire’s operators have going on elsewhere, but PrimeWire.tf is obviously alive. Or perhaps it’s just not dead. Hard to say for sure.
Image Credit: InspiredImages/Pixabay