The major record labels believe that YouTube rippers are the most significant piracy threat on the Internet.
These sites, which can serve a variety of purposes, are used by some to convert free YouTube videos into MP3s.
FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com Lawsuit
The RIAA and several of its members have taken legal action to curb this threat. They previously sued YouTube-MP3, the world’s largest ripping site at the time, which resulted in the site shutting down in 2017.
A year later, the music industry hoped to achieve the same with FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com. The sites’ Russian owner Tofig Kurbanov was taken to court in the United States in 2018, accused of facilitating mass copyright infringement.
Kurbanov was convinced that the sites operate legally and fought back in court. However, after several setbacks, including a discovery order that required the YouTube rippers to log user data, the Russian operator decided to back out of the US court process.
Kurbanov’s failure to comply with the discovery order and his decision to step away from the US lawsuit cleared the path for the RIAA. And indeed, the music group was quick to request a default judgment.
This request doesn’t come out of the blue. The court had repeatedly warned Kurbanov that, if he failed to comply with the orders, a default judgment could follow. And indeed, that’s exactly what has happened.
Virginia District Court Magistrate Judge Theresa Carroll Buchanan has issued a report and recommendations, concluding that the default judgment should be granted as a discovery sanction. The court sees no other option, especially since the site operator stepped away from the lawsuit.
Need to Deter
“There is a clear need to deter Defendant’s behavior in this case. Despite being ordered to fully produce documents and web server data, Defendant failed to comply with this Court’s orders.
“A less drastic sanction is unlikely to salvage this case. Plaintiffs are unable to fairly move forward with this case without discovery. It is unclear what other sanction could make Defendant comply with this Court’s orders..,” Judge Buchanan said.
This recommendation was taken over by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton, who handed down the default judgment last Friday.
The order means that the stream-rippers and their operator are liable for copyright infringement and violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision. The only remaining issue is the scale of the damages and the potential injunctive measures.
Millions in Damages
A hearing on these remaining issues is scheduled for later this week and yesterday the RIAA shared its demands with the court.
The music industry group demands $50,000 in damages per willful infringement of 1,618 copyrighted sound recordings, which is $80,900,000 in total. In addition, it requests $1,250 for every circumvention of YouTube’s technological protection measures, which amounts to $2,022,500.
On top of the damages, the RIAA requests a permanent injunction that prohibits Mr. Kurbanov from engaging in copyright-infringing activity. The music group also wants to take over the FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com domains, either directly through the defendant, or via the domain registrar or registries.
At the time of writing, both FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com are still operating as usual. The sites closed their doors to traffic from the U.S. a few weeks ago, shortly after Mr. Kurbanov stepped away from the lawsuit.
A copy of the request for damages and a permanent injunction is available here (pdf)