The online piracy ecosystem is constantly evolving.
Ten years ago the entertainment industries were mostly concerned with torrent sites. Today, online streaming sites and services are the main challenges.
To tackle this threat, some of the largest companies in the world bundled their powers. In 2017 they formed the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which lists prominent members including major Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and other entertainment giants.
The coalition has been very active both in- and outside of court. It has shut down various streaming tools, including unofficial Kodi add-ons and builds, and secured million-dollar judgments against pirate streaming box vendors.
This week we spotted a new tactic. On behalf of ACE, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) obtained a DMCA subpoena at a California District Court. The subpoena is directed at CDN provider Cloudflare and targets the video hosting services Fembed.com and Clipwatching.com.
Both sites allow users to upload videos that can be streamed from external sites. This makes them attractive to many pirate sites, which use these platforms to host their videos.
The MPA sees these hosting sites as pirate operations. In its submission to the US Trade Representative, the industry group highlighted Clipwatching.com as one of the most notorious copyright infringers online.
“As a video host, Clipwatching.com has a generous affiliation program, offering payments of $60 for every 10,000 views in tier 1 countries. Users can pay $30 per year to access the uploaded content without advertisements,” MPA wrote.
With the recently obtained subpoena, the MPA hopes to find out more about the people running these sites. Late last week it sent a copy of the legal paperwork to Cloudflare, asking it to hand over any personal information it has on the associated account holders.
“[Y]ou are required to disclose to the Motion Picture Association, Inc. (on behalf of the ACE Members) information sufficient to identify the infringers. This would include the individuals’ names, physical addresses, IP addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, payment information, account updates and account history,” the MPA informed Cloudflare.
According to the MPA, both sites have exploited the exclusive rights of ACE members. This includes hosting pirated copies of the movies “The Lion King” and “Daddy’s Home,” which remain online today.
The obtained personal information will be used to “protect” the movie companies’ copyrights, the MPA notes. Exactly how that will take place is unknown, but if the information is usable, the operators can expect some legal pressure.
These DMCA subpoenas are not new. The RIAA has been using the same tactic for a few months already, with mixed success. However, as far as we know, this is the first DMCA subpoena ACE has obtained against Cloudflare.
A copy of the subpoena the MPA obtained on behalf of ACE is available here (pdf). A copy of the letter to Cloudflare can be found here (pdf).
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