The battle between copyright holders and individuals illegally transferring copyrighted files has been raging for years. It looks like a recent skirmish has ended with another bystander caught in the crossfire.
In a recent blog post last month we discussed how copyright holders have begun bringing in VPN and internet service providers (ISPs) into their ButTorrent copyright infringement lawsuits. In another case, recently reported by TorrentFreak online, the VPN provider lost, badly, and this loss could represent a broken dam for all VPN providers in future cases of this kind.
According to the report, “A group of movie production outfits, including affiliates of the film studios Millennium Media and Voltage Pictures, filed a lawsuit against VPN.ht in March.”
This lawsuit was a typical BitTorrent copyright infringement claim. However, it brought in the VPN provider for a share of liability in its customers illegally transferring copyrighted material through the network.
In this case, the VPN provider lost. In a settlement agreement, approved by Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. of the Virginia District Court, conceded that the VPN provider would take three previously unprecedented actions:
- Use technological means to prevent its subscribers from using the BitTorrent protocol, at least on US servers,
- Store IP-address logs of every IP-address that is linked to its US servers for at least one year. These IP addresses will make it easier to connect internet activity to specific users.
- Disclose these logs when the plaintiffs notice a VPN subscriber has pirated one of their films using the service.
These are significant concessions, to be sure, with potentially wide-ranging consequences.
What does this mean?
For subscribers of VPN.ht in particular, this means that your personal internet usage information is not safe. You should probably take action quickly.
For other VPN service providers, and even users of other VPN services, this outcome could change how these cases are handled in the future, with more and more VPN providers being brought into lawsuits and precedent starting to favor the concessions made by VPN.ht.
Again, only time can tell how this will play out long term, but there is a definite trend here.