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Stream-ripper appeals $83 million judgement in labels dispute to expose “legal process that has gone off the rails”

By | Published on Friday 25 March 2022


The operator of stream-ripping sites FLVTO and 2Conv has confirmed that he is appealing the $83 million judgement that was made against him in the US courts last month at the end of a legal battle with the American record industry. His lawyer has insisted that the main aim of the appeal is to “shed light on a legal process that has gone off the rails”.

The major record companies first went legal against Russia-based Tofig Kurbanov through the US courts back in 2018. They argued that his two websites – which allow people to grab permanent downloads of temporary streams – were liable for copyright infringement, and were also violating rules in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act that prohibit the circumvention of copyright protection measures, like those used by YouTube to stop stream-ripping.

Despite living 5000 miles away from the court in Virginia where the labels went legal, Kurbanov decided to fight the lawsuit, initially arguing that – because he and his websites were based 5000 miles away – the Virginian court didn’t have jurisdiction.

That argument initially worked, but not for long. Which meant the legal battle went into the discovery phase during which the majors demanded a load of data from Kurbanov. At that point he bailed on the case and stopped responding to the labels’ arguments.

As a result, the court found in the record industry’s favour by default. Following that ruling, the labels asked for $82.9 million in damages, on the basis their lawsuit identified 1618 specific copyrights that had been infringed with the assistance of Kurbanov’s websites, and they should get $51,250 in damages per infringed work.

Despite having bailed on the case, legal reps for Kurbanov did formally object to that damages demand, arguing that the labels hadn’t actually proven that any of their recordings were ripped via his websites within the US. Of course, had Kurbanov not bailed on the case, the labels would have been required to bring such proof to court. But because they ended up winning by default, that requirement never came up.

However, Kurbanov’s legal reps argued, even though the labels had won the case by default without having to show any proof of infringement, they should still be required to provide that proof in order to pursue a damages claim. However, the two judges that considered that mega-bucks claim – magistrate judge Theresa Buchanan and later Claude M Hilton – both sided with the labels.

Ultimate decision maker Hilton ruled: “It appears to the court that the magistrate judge’s report and recommendation [supporting the labels’ claim] is neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law and it is hereby ordered that the 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”.

But both Buchanan and Hilton got it wrong, reckon Kurbanov and his legal team – which is why they are now taking the case to the Fourth Circuit appeals court.

Defence lawyer Val Gurvits confirmed that the appeal is now underway to Torrentfreak, adding: “At this point, Mr Kurbanov is doing this less for himself and more to shed light on a legal process that has gone off the rails. If the record companies can really get multi-million dollar judgments without having to prove a single instance of infringement within the United States, then no one who operates a website is safe”.

“And it is the American consumer that will suffer the most as websites simply decide that it’s just easier to block visitors from the US”, Gurvits added. “That doesn’t benefit anyone… other than the record companies, of course”.

So, here we go with round two of the record industry versus FLVTO and 2Conv!