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.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: copyright, jurisdiction, russia, streaming, supreme court, us
Companies: flvto


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 11:11am

    Oh, good. Now the United States of America will be forced to shut down all of its websites which have insulted DPRK and its Dear Leader.

    After all, if one country can apply its laws worldwide, so can the others. All praise Dear Leader and the glorious revolution!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rekrul, 3 Aug 2020 @ 4:24pm

      Re:

      After all, if one country can apply its laws worldwide, so can the others.

      Um, no. America does whatever the hell it wants, but all other countries are limited by what WE let them do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:12pm

    If you're going to attack us either way, you do the work

    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.

    Getting some wicked Megaupload flashbacks here, the site is having the fact that it followed the legal requirements used against it, which is not only incredibly stupid in the short-term but even more so in the long term, because if registering a DMCA agent is something that can be used against a foreign site then they'd have to be completely insane to do so in the future, something which I imagine might not make those that like to file DMCA claims happy.

    Add to that the utterly insane idea that if you don't proactively block a given country then that means you are bound by their laws and I'm really hoping that the usual copyright induced madness does not happen here and the ruling gets a well-deserved smackdown, because the alternative is all sorts of horrible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:37pm

    good... so i guess we can apply the same juristiction standard to US sites that are accessible from... let's say Egypt or another arabic country?

    then the death penalty that those crazies apply for simply writing bad stuff about Islam is a lawful sentence, according to USA judges, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:47pm

      Re:

      Or for that matter, writing hate speech with laws that criminalize that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:49pm

      Re:

      Think about facebook, with all those pictures of women who aren't wearing burkas! Won't someone think of the women?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      good... so i guess we can apply the same juristiction standard to US sites that are accessible from... let's say Egypt or another arabic country?

      That's not a good plan for handling this. The USA has a military that would kindly tell the Arabic courts to go f*** themselves.

      You should instead reverse the roles. USians wanting to access international sites being unable to do so due to geoblocking. After all, a bad ruling here would make international sites think twice about allowing US visitors. It would also probably start another round of offshoring data centers thereby hurting the US economy and cutting off the prying eyes of US intelligence agencies. You're much more likely to get the result you want (albeit for reasons you don't) this way.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mononymous Tim (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 12:41pm

    Greed and ignorance usually go hand-in-hand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    TripMN, 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:27pm

    Going from jurisdiction shopping to jurisdiction gerrymandering

    With these kind of jurisdiction games, the next steps are them making ICE the internet cops and everyone within 100 miles of a device that is "on the internet" is considered part of the "constitution free zone" near the "border".

    Do I really have to /s with that many quotes around words and phrases?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 4 Aug 2020 @ 3:40am

      Re: Going from jurisdiction shopping to jurisdiction gerrymander

      "Do I really have to /s with that many quotes around words and phrases?"

      Yes. As soon as the words "Copyright", "DoJ", or "Trump" end up being involved in the conversation you invariably end up beating both irony and sarcasm to death with Poe's Law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:35pm

    Does this show..

    That the Corps DO restrict US access to certain goods and services??
    I would love to see This capitalist nation, compete with a Capitalist World.
    That would be a Battle worth paying for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:57pm

      Re: Does this show..

      I don't think I want to pay for that battle, TVYM, my wallet is already suffering enough as it is. However, if you meant to say "battle worth paying to watch it", then yes, I'm sure I could come up with a suitably small spectator's fee. (Make the fee too large, and I'll just fire up the torrent machine.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Paul (profile), 3 Aug 2020 @ 1:53pm

    SCOTUS???

    To SCOTUS or not to SCREWUS is the bigger question.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 2:03pm

    That's already how it works though

    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.

    I'm thinking specifically of defamation cases when I say this, but it's already pretty common for courts to assert jurisdiction over a case when the only connection is that someone within that jurisdiction was able to view the site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 4:36pm

    Haven't the Canadian courts already decided that their rulings are valid for the entire world? I forget the case, something about forgetting someone a few years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 4:38pm

    This can be fixed quickly

    Perhaps somebody can just tell Trump a Russian company is in trouble and have him fix it with a tweet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Aug 2020 @ 5:05pm

    Have said many times that the US courts are doing whatever they can to assist the US entertainment industries achieve total control of the internet. Ehy the hell courts here think they have more rights to the internet than any other country's courts is beyond me. However, it's typical of the attitude of the US courts and security services to think that everything is theirs to use and abuse. As for the entertainment industries, they want the control so as to be able to shut down all except the bits they can make money from, ie torrent sites, download sites etc, the very sites they condemn atm. You see how that condemnation changes once they're making money and stopping others!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Crafty Coyote, 8 Aug 2020 @ 8:33pm

    Since there is no such a thing as "international copyright", the whole thing seems pretty open-and-shut, the need for plaintiff and defendant to be in the same place would make a ruling impossible, and even if it were, the judge in a country would almost certainly consider it an insult to have a foreigner overrule his decision to protect countrymen from Americans. I'm not sure if double jeopardy exists in Russian law, but calling the defendants back in seems illegal to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.