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Russian stream-ripper abandons appeal of $83 million label litigation due to lack of funds

By | Published on Monday 14 August 2023

The Russian operator of stream-ripping sites FLVTO and 2conv has abandoned his appeal in a long-running legal battle with the record industry because of a lack of funds.

A lawyer working for Tofig Kurbanov told Torrentfreak that he still believes the default judgment previously issued in favour of the Recording Industry Association Of America should be challenged, but that his client simply can’t afford to do so.

Stream-ripping services – which allow people to grab permanent copies of temporary streams – have long been a top piracy gripe for the music industry.

The RIAA first sued Russia-based Kurbanov and his two stream-ripping sites through the US courts in 2018. He fought back, initially arguing that – given he was a Russian citizen running websites in Russia – the US courts didn’t have jurisdiction.

When that argument ultimately failed he got about presenting a more conventional defence, reckoning that his stream-ripping services were not in themselves liable for copyright infringement, even if people use them to making infringing copies.

However, when the courts started demanding more information from Kurbanov about the operations of his stream-ripping sites he bailed on the case and subsequently geo-blocked FLVTO and 2conv so that they couldn’t be easily accessed from within the US.

With Kurbanov no longer defending himself, the RIAA won a default judgment in its favour. And the courts then ordered Kurbanov to pay the RIAA nearly $83 million in damages.

Despite having bailed on the original case, Kurbanov nevertheless decided to appeal, taking the case to the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court in March last year. At the time his legal rep said that the appeal aimed to “shed light on a legal process that has gone off the rails”.

However, last week Kurbanov’s lawyers filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit. Attorney Val Gurvits confirmed to Torrentfreak that his client had run out of money and was no longer in a position to fund an appeal.

Gruvits added: “It is disappointing that a person who has never once set foot in the United States and who has only operated a website accessible anywhere in the world can be ordered to appear in a court half way around the world”.

“And, if he fails to do so – or simply can’t afford to do so – that he can be hit with millions of dollars of damages”, the lawyer went on, “even when there has been no evidence that the plaintiffs actually suffered any damages as a result of his conduct”.

Of course, given the geographic distance between the labels in the US and Kurbanov in Russia – not to mention the political conflict between Russia and the West at the moment – the chances of the record industry getting those damages are probably pretty low. But either way, the judgement against the stream-ripping sites will now remain in place.