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Florida court rules hosting company cannot be held liable for copyright infringement via VPN it hosts

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By Chris Cooke | Posted on Monday, March 28, 2022

A Florida court has upheld an earlier ruling that US hosting company Quadranet is not liable for any copyright infringement committed by users of a VPN it provides services to, namely LiquidVPN.

The judge ruled that a specific anti-piracy tactic proposed by a group of film producers who sued LiquidVPN and Quadranet was not viable, and therefore the fact that the latter did not use this tactic was not a motive to make him liable for the conduct of the first’s customers. .

These movie producers – many of them affiliated with Millennium Media – have targeted a plethora of internet companies with copyright lawsuits.

Their lawsuit builds on the music industry’s successful lawsuit against U.S. Internet service provider Cox Communications, which was found liable for infringing its customers’ copyright because its repeated lax counterfeiting policies meant it was ineligible for protection under Safe Harbor. contained in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of the United States.

The music industry has filed similar lawsuits against a number of other ISPs, as has this consortium of movie producers. However, they went further by also targeting VPNs – or Virtual Private Networks – which, among other things, can be used to circumvent anti-piracy measures put in place by ISPs. And not only that, movie companies have also been attacking server hosting companies that provide services to VPNs.

A number of these targeted companies have actually agreed to out-of-court settlements. These are confidential, of course, so it’s unclear what commitments the VPNs and hosts have made, although it is known that some have agreed to block certain hacking websites or initiate other technical measures. that make it more difficult to access or share unlicensed content.

However, when named as a defendant in the movie producers’ lawsuit against LiquidVPN, Quadranet pushed back. Last December, the court in Florida where movie companies had become legal dismissed the suit against the hosting company on the grounds that there were no simple tactics it could use to stop any infringing activity taking place. producing on its networks.

The film producers had argued that the hosting company could “null route” the IP addresses linked to the infringing activity, rendering them unusable and ending the infringement. But, according to Torrentfreak, the court found that it was an “unacceptably broad measure” because it would interfere with the relationship between the VPN and its customers, and could also negatively impact others who legitimately use VPN services.

The film producers then asked the court to reconsider, citing its past deals with other internet companies as evidence that the court was wrong to conclude that their proposed anti-piracy tactic would have unintended consequences. They cited a statement from VPN provider TorGuard that null routing was common practice in the VPN industry, and also referenced their deal with hosting company Sharktech which agreed to block some of VPN’s traffic. piracy.

But, in her latest decision, Judge Beth Bloom said none of that persuaded her to reverse her original decision to dismiss the lawsuit against Quadranet. “The manner in which Sharktech operates and is willing to implement systems to attempt to block hacked websites stems from an independent settlement agreement that does not affect Quadranet’s ability and alleged obligation to implementing similar measures,” she said.

Further, “assuming, for the sake of argument, that Quadranet can route a specific IP address – static or dynamic – without interfering with the legitimate use of the same IP address by other end users”, a- she added, “Quadranet’s actions would be totally ineffective”. because the copyright infringer could obtain a new IP address to continue infringing the copyrighted works of the plaintiffs. In other words, null-routing an IP address or account is not a practical measure to control infringing activities.”

So, a definite victory for Quadranet. Although the hosting company has now been removed from the movie producers’ lawsuit against LiquidVPN, it can now seek default judgment against the VPN company itself after it failed to defend itself. before the tribunal.

The producers are claiming nearly $15 million in damages. Although LiquidVPN’s homepage has been offline for a while, so it’s not entirely clear what’s going on in the VPN business and if anyone’s left to pay.

LEARN MORE ABOUT: LiquidVPN | Quadranet