RIAA Wins $83 Million in Piracy Damages From YouTube Rippers

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The RIAA has secured a multi-million dollar victory in its piracy lawsuit against YouTube-rippers FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com. A Virginia federal approved the damages request after a hard-fought legal battle that took place over several years. The stream-rippers previously closed their doors to U.S. traffic but remain accessible elsewhere for now.

flvtoLast October, the RIAA secured a major victory in its piracy lawsuit against YouTube-rippers FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com and their Russian operator Tofig Kurbanov.

A Virginia federal court issued a default judgment in favor of several prominent music companies after the defendant walked away from the lawsuit.

According to the order, there is a clear need to deter the behavior of Kurbanov who failed to hand over evidence including server logs. “A less drastic sanction is unlikely to salvage this case,” the judge wrote.

RIAA Seeks Millions in Damages

Following this win, the RIAA asked for an injunction to stop the sites’ worldwide stream-ripping activities. In addition, the music group demanded nearly $83 million in damages. Both of these requests were taken up in a report and recommendation issued by Magistrate Judge Buchanan last December.

“Defendant’s Websites caused the Plaintiffs to lose profits and streaming revenue because of the enormous internet traffic to and use of the Websites’ stream-ripping functions,” Judge Buchanan wrote.

Mr. Kurbanov’s legal team opposed this recommendation, arguing that the music companies failed to provide evidence that any infringing activity actually took place in the United States. Also, if the court believes that damages are appropriate, they should be substantially lower.

The RIAA predictably disagreed and asked the court to stay the course and take over the recommendation. After weighing the positions from both sides, that’s exactly what happened.

$83 Million is Justified

In an order released late last week, Virginia District Court Judge Claude Hilton concludes that the recommendations are in line with the law. As such, the recommended damages amount is justified.

“Based on a de novo review of the evidence in this case, the Report and Recommendation, and Defendant Kurbanov’s objections, it appears to the Court that the Magistrate Judge’s Report and Recommendation is neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law.”

This means that Mr. Kurbanov is required to pay the full damages award the RIAA requested for 1,618 copyright infringements and violations of the DMCA.

“Plaintiffs are awarded statutory damages for violations of the Copyright Act of 1976 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the amount of $82,922,500,” Judge Hilton ordered while adding that Kurbanov also has to compensate the music companies’ legal costs and fees.

What’s Next?

In addition to the financial part of the judgment, FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com are also required to cease circumventing any and all technological measures. This effectively means that they are not allowed to operate in their current form.

Needless to say, this outcome spells trouble for other stream-ripping sites that offer similar functionality in the United States.

The order doesn’t specifically mention that its scope is limited to the US alone. Mr. Kurbanov’s lawyers previously suggested that an order of this magnitude would equate to a global shutdown demand. However, that may be up for debate.

Both FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com already closed their doors to U.S. visitors last year. However, at the time of writing, they remain accessible in most other parts of the world.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Mr. Kurbanov can still appeal the judgment. If that happens, the case will continue at a higher court.

A copy of U.S. District Court Judge Claude Hilton’s order is available here (pdf)

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