Over the years we have covered dozens of piracy-related lawsuits, mostly from US courts. In many of these cases, defendants are foreign sites or services which don’t put up much of a fight.
That doesn’t appear to be true for the copyright infringement lawsuit a group of major record labels recently brought against Tofig Kurbanov.
Right off the bat, the Russian operator of the YouTube rippers FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com hit back with a motion to dismiss. Helped by a team of several prominent lawyers, he argued that the Virginia federal court lacked jurisdiction.
The record labels, including Universal, Warner Bros, and Sony, countered the motion last week, but this was quickly followed by a response brief from the defense team.
At this stage of the case, both sides are arguing whether the Russian site operator can stand trial in the US, Virginia in particular. The record labels said yes, noting (among other things) that the sites use domain names that are administered by the VeriSign and Neustar registries, which are both headquartered in Virginia.
In its reply this week, the defense team notes that this argument is not just silly, but the height of absurdity.
“Because the Court will be tempted to believe that Plaintiffs are simply making a silly argument – as opposed to a patently absurd one – Plaintiffs’ actual argument needs to be articulated,” Mr. Kurbanov’s lawyers write.
They explain that the record labels don’t argue that their client registered the domain names with Verisign or Neustar, which they would see as a silly argument to warrant jurisdiction. No, these registries ‘merely’ oversee the top level domains, .com and .biz respectively.
“Plaintiffs here instead argue that – even though Defendant’s Websites were registered through Arizona registrar GoDaddy.com – jurisdiction is proper in Virginia because Verisign, Inc. oversees the entire top-level .com domain and Neustar, Inc. oversees the entire top-level .biz domain.
“Currently, there are 137.9 million registered .com domains and an additional 2.25 million .biz domains. Under Plaintiffs’ theory, every owner of each of those 140+ million domains are subject to personal jurisdiction in Virginia,” they add.
The defense argues that the site operator shouldn’t stand trial at all, but if the court decides otherwise, a transfer to a California federal court is requested. The labels objected to this as well last week, noting that it would be “less convenient” for all parties.
However, the defense has an interesting comeback to these arguments, noting that the labels themselves chose California for their case against YouTube-MP3, another stream ripper.
“Plaintiffs seem to have a touch of amnesia, forgetting that they brought a near-identical lawsuit two years ago in the Central District of California where they argued that jurisdiction was proper in part because, they alleged, that was ‘where several Plaintiffs are located and/or maintain substantial business operations’,” the defense writes.
In addition, they point out that several labels are located in California, as well as YouTube, several advertising brokers, as well as more visitors of the websites in question.
According to the defense, the only reason why the record labels would prefer Virginia is the so-called “rocket docket,” referring to the speedy resolution of the cases in that jurisdiction.
“Plaintiffs’ only (apparent) motivation for being in the Eastern District of Virginia is to take advantage of the Court’s rocket docket. The Visigoths are indeed at the gate,” the defense writes, ending with an ominous reference.
Both the site operator and the labels have listed a wide variety of arguments and counter-arguments to convince the court that they are right. At this point, it’s impossible to tell in which direction things will go, but the recent filings show that the Russian site operator is putting up a thorough defense.
The defense’s reply memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer to the central district of California, is available here (pdf).