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 Judge Buchanan there is a clear need to deter the behavior of Kurbanov, who also failed to hand over evidence including server logs. “A less drastic sanction is unlikely to salvage this case,” they noted.
Following this win, the RIAA also asked for an injunction to stop the sites’ worldwide stream-ripping activities. In addition, the music group demanded $82 million in damages. Both of these requests have yet to be signed off by the court.
YouTube Rippers Oppose Demands
While the Russian operator previously indicated that he would no longer take part in the lawsuit, his legal team is not letting the case go completely. This week, they filed a brief in opposition of the RIAA’s demands.
Among other things, Kurbanov’s attorneys point out that the RIAA failed to provide evidence of concrete copyright infringing activity that took place in the United States. Without infringements, there shouldn’t be any damages, they argue.
“Plaintiffs have provided the Court with no competent evidence from which the Court could conclude that any infringement took place at all in connection with the 1,618 works in suit, much less that such infringement took place within the boundaries of the United States.
“Without such evidence, this Court cannot find that Plaintiffs are entitled to any statutory damages, since the evidence of actual infringement does not exist,” the attorneys note.
The defense argues that if the court decides to award statutory damages nonetheless, these should be substantially lower than the millions the music companies demand. Lower damages are appropriate because the case only deals with contributory infringement, while Mr. Kurbanov himself has never set foot on U.S. soil.
In addition, the attorneys stress that the stream-rippers’ alleged infringing activity stems from open source software that’s freely available on the Internet. This software, youtube-dl, was previously removed from GitHub by the RIAA but it was reinstated after an intervention from the Electonic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
Kurbanov’s legal team specifically cites the EFF which concluded that, in circumvention terms, youtube-dl works in the same way as a regular web browser.
“As the EFF explains, the youtube-dl software does nothing more than provide YouTube’s servers with the same code that any web browser would provide if an individual went to YouTube looking to play one of the songs that Plaintiffs make freely available to the entire world.”
In addition to the damages, the RIAA also asked for an injunction that would effectively order Kurbanov to block worldwide traffic to his sites. Not just that, the Russian site operator would also lose ownership of his domain names.
Blocking Should be Limited to U.S. Traffic
This global ‘blocking’ demand goes too far, the lawyers point out, as United States courts have no jurisdiction over alleged infringing activity that takes place in other countries.
Mr. Kurbanov has already decided to block U.S visitors from accessing FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com so there is no need for any further measures. If the court decided to issue an injunction after all, it would be appropriate to limit it to the United States.
“Should this Court find injunctive relief appropriate, it should narrowly target such relief, ordering only that Mr. Kurbanov continue to block visitors to the Websites from the United States from accessing any copyrighted materials owned by the Plaintiffs,” Kurbanov’s attorneys write.
“Such an order – while not currently necessary given the complete blocking of the sites in the United States – is sufficient to protect all of Plaintiffs’ legitimate concerns.”
Given the stakes at play, we can expect the RIAA to contest this opposition brief if it gets the chance. After that, it will be up to the court to decide if damages and injunction measures are appropriate and what these should be.
A copy of Mr. Kurbanov’s brief in opposition to RIAA’s request for damages and a permanent injunction is available here (pdf)