In September 2019, MG Premium went to court in the United States requesting a DMCA subpoena against Cloudflare.
Alleging mass infringement, the adult giant wanted the CDN company to hand over the personal details of the people behind ‘tube’ site YesPornPlease and partner platform VShare.io.
With 100 million visitors in January 2020 alone, YesPornPlease is a huge player in the space. It reportedly carries huge volumes of MG Premium content, including videos published under the Reality Kings, Brazzers, MOFOS, Babes.com, and Twistys brands.
Progress on the earlier subpoena is unknown but in February, MG Premium filed a full-blown lawsuit in a Washington court potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
In the wake of that legal action both YesPornPlease and VShare went offline. At the time it appeared that the sites may not return but the situation was temporary. Now, however, visitors to the platform are being greeted by a strange ‘welcome’ page.
“Our website is banned in your country,” the greeting claims. “Please use Tor Browser, VPN or if you don’t have any get this for free.”
The “this for free” is a VPN called VPN4Test and the suggestion is that it can unlock the site. However, there are a number of confusing aspects to the message and the recommendation.
Aside from countries where porn may be illegal in general, we’re not aware that YesPornPlease is ‘banned’ in any country it was previously accessible from. That tends to suggest that the website hasn’t been banned by any authority and it’s the site’s operators that have put measures in place at their end to ensure access is hindered.
Furthermore, after extended testing with various VPNs and Tor, on what grounds access is granted by the site remains unclear. For example, in some cases UK IP addresses are allowed through yet VPN IP addresses in the same country are blocked. The same is true for those located in other regions, US and mainland Europe, for example.
After cycling through a dozen or so Tor IP addresses, access was granted roughly 50% of the time, which will please users of the site. However, people shouldn’t be streaming lots of unnecessary videos using Tor – it isn’t designed for it, especially in the volumes required to service a massive adult video site.
That leads to the question of whether one of the main aims of the blocking is to drive traffic to the promoted VPN. While it is reportedly free to use, it should come with all the usual warnings that other free VPNs carry – in a nutshell, free is rarely free and there are probably strings attached.
Nevertheless, VPN4Test is doing well out of the referrals. From very little traffic at all in December 2019, the service is now clocking up more than 1.5 million visits per month. Meanwhile, MG Premium is pressing ahead with its legal action.
It’s clear from its numerous filings that the main challenge the company faces is positively identifying the people who run the defendant sites. In a motion for early discovery, the adult giant says that can only be achieved with the assistance of several US-based companies that are doing or have done business with the site.
“Plaintiff seeks a Court order allowing it to serve discovery demands on PayPal, Inc.; Domain Protection Services; Name.com, Inc.; Cloudflare, Inc.; Namecheap.com; Tucows Domains, Inc.; Internet Security Research Group; and, Comodo, Inc. for identifying information of their customers, the Defendants in this case,” the filing reads.
According to MG, Domain Protection Services in Colorado anonymizes the YesPornPlease domain, while Name.com and Cloudflare provide registrar and DNS services. Vshare uses Namecheap and Cloudflare, with the latter being used by both sites to serve content in the United States. It’s further alleged that the affiliate program operated by VShare pays out through PayPal while using an SSL certificate from New Jersey-based Comodo, Inc.
MG says that its representatives contacted all of the companies with requests for cooperation but without exception they either “ignored requests for information or previously instructed that information will only be produced upon subpoena.”
“Plaintiff is aware of no available information that would identify the infringing users, other than information maintained by the domain privacy service, registrar service and
other service providers,” the motion for early discovery notes.
“Due to the nature of on-line transactions which in this case includes in certain instances of the crypto currency Bitcoin, Plaintiff has no way of determining Defendants’ identities except through immediate discovery, and follow-up discovery.”
As a result, MG requests that the court issues an order allowing it to serve subpoenas on the companies listed above, compelling them to turn over “all information pertinent to the identity of the owners, operators, and principals operating the YesPornPlease.com, VShare.io, and ezcgwym5xp7ty.com websites, domain names, and relevant accounts for each.”
The motion for early discovery can be found here (pdf)