Various film companies have joined forces by filing a lawsuit against various VPN providers. The filmmakers believe they are facilitating online piracy and advertising to circumvent geographic restrictions. They demand compensation from the VPN service providers, but also that they keep log files of user data from now on.
The advantages of a VPN at a glance
Internet users are increasingly concerned about their online privacy. They don’t want big tech companies like Google and Facebook, search engines, governments, providers and other data collectors looking over their shoulder. For that reason, VPN services have become increasingly popular in recent years.
A virtual private network or VPN is a service that allows you to surf the internet securely and anonymously. A VPN encrypts all your internet traffic and hides your IP address. No one will then be able to find out your browsing history, not even your provider. Thanks to a VPN, advertising companies such as Google cannot build a profile of you: after all, you are anonymous.
Finally, with a VPN you can bypass internet blocks and geographical restrictions. Watching a Netflix series or sports match that is only broadcast abroad is, therefore, a breeze. Curious how you will watch the Formula 1
A VPN has many advantages but also has a downside. After all, a VPN can also be used for illegal activities. For example, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal ruled last year that Ziggo and XS4ALL must block all IP addresses and domain names of The Pirate Bay. With the help of a VPN, this blockage is very easy to circumvent. Users can then download their favourite movies, series, music, games and other copyrighted material undisturbed.
All kinds of parties are trying to put an end to this kind of practice. In our country, Stichting Brein wants to act against ‘frequent bit tower uploaders’. The collecting society sees them as the lubricant that keeps the exchange of illegal content going. The foundation tries to tackle online piracy with information campaigns and targeted e-mails.
Dutch Films Works has been fighting for the rights of filmmakers and other rights holders in the film world for years. The film distributor came up with the idea to find illegal downloaders 150 euros for every film or episode they downloaded from an illegal source. The German Tecxipio collected the IP addresses of illegal downloaders for Dutch Film Works. The interest group tried to collect their name and address details through the court. At the beginning of July, however, the Supreme Court ruled that Ziggo is not required to provide the film distributor’s personal data of its customers.
Filmmakers: ‘VPN providers facilitate online piracy’
In the United States, filmmakers take a different tack. Instead of having websites blocked or tackling providers, they focus their attention on VPN providers. Several film companies drag ExpressVPN, Surf Shark, and VPN Unlimited Zenmate VPN court for involvement in widespread copyright infringement.
The list of allegations is long. The filmmakers of, among others, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Dallas Buyers Club and London has Fallen accuse the VPN providers of giving users the means to evade geographical restrictions of streaming services. Worse, they even advertise it. “Defendants are promoting their VPN services as a means that can be used to illegally copy copyrighted material without getting caught,” the indictment reads.
Finally, according to the filmmakers, these VPN providers work closely with notorious websites that promote online piracy. Some sites place a container that lists the user’s IP address and country of origin. “Your ISP can track you unless you use a zero log VPN,” it reads. To prevent this, users are advised to install a VPN, including a link to the provider to take out a subscription.
Filmmakers require VPN providers to keep logs
The movie companies have sent thousands of copyright infringement notices to Internet service providers. These are in turn forwarded to VPN providers. They say they cannot designate individual members because they are using a shared IP address.
According to the filmmakers, there is a simple solution for this, namely registering and keeping log files. “[VPN providers] have the ability to log their subscribers’ access to their VPN service, but either intentionally delete the logged information or set their system to delete the logged information so that they can promote their service as a means of anonymously copying copyrighted works,” the prosecutors write.
The film companies argue that the VPN providers are directly guilty of copyright infringement. They, therefore, demand compensation for all damage suffered. In addition, they want the providers to block websites such as The Pirate Bay for their members and to keep log files. Finally, they want the VPN providers to suspend the accounts of members who receive three or more copyright infringement notices within 72 hours.
ExpressVPN, Surfshark, VPN Unlimited and Zenmate VPN have not yet responded to the allegations.
LiquidVPN previously sued for promoting online piracy
It is not the first time that a VPN provider has been sued by a group of film companies. The same thing happened to LiquidVPN in early March. The company was accused of promoting and enabling online piracy. The prosecutors demanded damages of up to $150,000 per film, that websites that illegally offer copyrighted material be blocked, and that customers who break the rules too often be barred.
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