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Stream-ripper hits back at court order over user-data

By | Published on Wednesday 7 July 2021


The Russian operator of stream-ripping sites FLVTO and 2conv has hit back at a court order regarding the storing and sharing of user data which was issued last month as part of his ongoing legal battle with the major record companies in the US.

He argues that the court order will result in him incurring thousands of dollars in new costs, while also putting him at risk of violating data protection laws in some countries and his users at risk of having records of their online activity seized by the Russian government.

Stream-ripping sites – which turn temporary streams, often YouTube streams, into permanent downloads – have been the music industry’s top piracy gripe for years now, of course.

The labels have filed or threatened legal action against may such sites, most of which have gone offline in response. However, the owners of some streams-ripping platforms have stood their ground, including FLVTO and 2conv operator Tofig Kurbanov.

He is currently fighting a lawsuit filed by the American labels with the courts in Virgina. As part of that litigation, the majors recently requested access to logs from FLVTO and 2conv to identify what specific YouTube videos are having their audio ripped via the two websites, and also where the rippers are located. But Kurbanov argued that he didn’t keep any such logs and expecting him to start doing so would be “unduly burdensome”.

The labels then disputed that latter claim, arguing that storing the information they wanted access to was a relatively easy task, mainly involving turning on automated server logging tools that Kurbanov had deliberately turned off.

They told the court: “In the ordinary course of operations, defendant’s websites necessarily generate server data, including data that identifies: (a) the YouTube videos being stream-ripped; (b) the MP3 audio files being copied and distributed; and (c) the geographic locations of the users downloading the audio files. Respectfully, the court should order defendant to preserve and produce this key evidence”.

The court respectfully did just that last month. Responding, Kurbanov has now presented another round of arguments as to why storing all that data will be a major burden, while throwing around some data protection and privacy concerns for good measure.

Not only would Kurbanov have to re-programme his websites to keep the required logs, he argues in a new legal filing, but he’d have to buy new server space to store all that data.

Just logging the YouTube links entered into his stream-rip sites, he claims, “would take up approximately 92.5 gigabytes of storage space each day which translates to about 2.7 terabytes of storage each month”. Which seems like an awful lot of data. But then there’s probably an awful lot of links. Either way, Kurbanov says, “this would result in thousands of dollars a year in storage charges”.

And then there’s the fact that 90% of his sites’ users are not based in the US, but their data would have to be stored too. “Mr Kurbanov also values the privacy of the websites’ users and believes that keeping and storing access logs or storing the records of the URLs that were converted could jeopardise the privacy of the websites users”, the new legal filing goes on.

“Storing such information – or providing it to third-parties such as the plaintiffs – could create a host of legal concerns and liabilities in the 200+ countries where the websites are accessed – each of which has its own data privacy laws”.

Plus, don’t forget, Kurbanov runs his stream-ripping enterprise from Russia. “It is Mr Kurbanov’s understanding that since the websites are operated from Russia, the Russian authorities might have the right to seize and inspect the websites’ business records, which would include access logs and/or URL records if the websites were to maintain them”, the legal filing adds.

“Mr Kurbanov reasonably fears that if any of the websites’ users were to have downloaded what Russia considers to be dissident material, or material that the Russian government otherwise finds objectionable, that the Russian government could locate a website user and possibly subject that user to an unfavourable and unfair criminal or civil proceeding”.

And if none of that has the count convinced, Kurbanov’s lawyers argue that the judge got the law wrong when ordering that data that doesn’t already exist be shared with the majors. “Ultimately, though, it is undisputed that the server data plaintiff seeks to have preserved and produced does not now ‘exist’, nor has it ever ‘existed’ in a stored form – other than as transitory, ephemeral data”.

That violates the Federal Rule Of Civil Procedure, they add. Rule 34 to be precise. “Because Rule 34 does not require the creation of new information for the purpose of discovery, the [recent] order requiring the creation and storage of data is [a] legal error and must be set aside”.

We await to see how the labels and the judge respond.