Russian Stream-Rip Sites Attempt To Take Jurisdiction Issue All The Way To SCOTUS
from the russian-to-the-top dept
Early in 2019, we wrote about stream-ripping site FLVTO.biz winning in court against the record labels on jurisdictional grounds. The site, which is Russian and has no presence in the United States, argued that the courts had no jurisdiction. The RIAA labels argued against that, essentially claiming that because Americans could get to the site it therefore constituted some kind of commercial contract, even though no actual contract existed. Instead, the site merely makes money by displaying advertisements. The court very much agreed and dismissed the case.
On appeal in May, however, the case was sent back to the lower court.
The labels then took their case to the Fourth Circuit appeals court back in May, where judges concluded that the district court judge was wrong to quickly dismiss the lawsuit on those jurisdiction grounds. The appeal judges listed various reasons why it could be deemed that FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com were actively trading in the US – and specifically Virginia – even though the websites are formally based in Russia and don’t require any sign-up from users.
The technical interaction that occurred between Kurbanov’s servers and the computers of his site’s American users constituted a “commercial relationship”; he’d had business dealings with US-based advertisers and server companies and registered a ‘DMCA agent’ with the US Copyright Office; plus he could but didn’t seek to geo-block Americans from using FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com.
It should be immediately clear how dangerous this is for a healthy international internet to exist. The idea that a website, whatever its purpose, could find itself in the jurisdiction of any nation just because that nation’s population can reach that website is absurd. Should Wikipedia be in the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia just because it doesn’t geoblock that country? Should Cosmo Magazine’s site be subject to the laws of Mexico if its people can get to the site?
No, that’s absurd. Were that the standard, it would be a legal quagmire for any site to operate unless it geoblocked every country where it doesn’t have a direct presence. And that, it should be obvious, would be the end of a free and open international internet. Which is why FLVTO’s lawyers want this to go to the Supreme Court.
Speaking to Torrentfreak, one of those lawyers, Evan Fray-Witzer, said the Fourth Circuit’s ruling set a dangerous precedent that could have a big impact on all foreign website operators. This makes it important enough for Supreme Court consideration, he added.
“The Supreme Court has not yet decided a case concerning personal jurisdiction based on internet contacts and we think this case would be a good opportunity for the court to address the issue head-on”, he continued.
And so we wait, I suppose, to see if SCOTUS would kindly like to un-break the internet.