Amidst growing concerns surrounding online privacy and security, VPN services have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Millions of people use VPNs to stay secure and to prevent outsiders from tracking their online activities. As with regular Internet providers, a subsection of these subscribers may be engaged in piracy activities.
Over the past few years we have seen copyright holders take several ISPs to court, accusing them of failing to disconnect repeat copyright infringers. These lawsuits have expanded recently, with VPN providers and hosting companies as the main targets.
The VPN lawsuits are filed by a group of independent movies companies that previously went after piracy sites and apps. They include the makers of films such as The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Dallas Buyers Club, and London Has Fallen.
Filmmakers sued VPN Unlimited
In one of these cases, the filmmakers accused VPN Unlimited’s company KeepSolid Inc. of being involved in widespread copyright infringement. The company allegedly ‘encouraged’ subscribers to use pirate sites and did nothing to stop infringing traffic.
“Despite Defendant’s knowledge that their subscribers are using their service to engage in widescale copyright infringements, Defendants failed to take reasonable steps to minimize the infringing capabilities of their service,” the complaint read.
Most VPNs can’t track the online activities of subscribers and the filmmakers believe that VPN Unlimited and other providers actively promoted their services to online pirates. For example, by referencing known pirate sites.
“Defendant KeepSolid encourages its users to access torrent sites including the Pirate Bay,” the complaint read, showing a screenshot from the VPN’s help section, which remains online today.
Instead of fighting the case on its merits, both parties have agreed to settle the case behind closed doors. Last week, they informed the Virginia federal court that an agreement had been reached. As part of this settlement, all claims against VPN Unlimited were dismissed.
The full details of the settlement agreement are confidential. Both parties agreed to cover their own costs but it’s unknown whether any monetary damages are involved. What is clear is that, going forward, VPN Unlimited will restrict torrent traffic on its U.S. servers.
“Pursuant to the confidential settlement agreement, Plaintiffs have requested and Defendant KeepSolid has agreed to use commercially reasonable efforts to block BitTorrent traffic,” the joint dismissal stipulation reads.
As it reads, this measure applies to BitTorrent traffic as a broad category. That includes both pirated content and lawful torrent transfers. In addition, VPN Unlimited will also take more targeted measures to stop traffic to torrent sites.
Blocking Torrent sites
VPN Unlimited has agreed to block access to several pirate sites. These include YTS, The Pirate Bay, RARBG, 1337x, and several proxies. These measures are again limited to U.S.-based VPN servers. Popcorn-time.tw is also on the blocklist, but this Popcorn Time fork has already shut down.
Needless to say, these are far-reaching measures but VPN Unlimited is not the first company to agree to a blocking arrangement in the United States. Hosting provider SharkTech signed a similar settlement deal a few weeks ago and VPN.ht also agreed to block torrent traffic on US servers.
VPN provider Surfshark also signed a confidential settlement with the filmmakers previously, but the company assured us that it does not block any websites on its network.
With the settlement, the lawsuit against VPN Unlimited is over. However, the filmmakers’ claims against several other VPN services and hosting companies such as Leaseweb, ExpressVPN, and ZenMate remain unresolved.
A copy of the joint stipulation for dismissal between the filmmakers and VPN Unlimited, which was signed off by the court last week, is available here (pdf)
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.
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