In 2017, there can be little doubt that streaming is the big piracy engine of the moment. Dubbed Piracy 3.0 by the MPAA, the movement is causing tremendous headaches for rightsholders on a global scale.
One of the interesting things about this phenomenon is the distributed nature of the content on offer. Sourced from thousands of online locations, from traditional file-hosters to Google Drive, the big challenge is to aggregate it all into one place, to make it easy to find. This is often achieved via third-party addons for the legal Kodi software.
One company offering such a service was MovieStreamer.nl in the Netherlands. Via its website MovieStreamer the company offered its Easy Use Interface 2.0, a piece of software that made Kodi easy to use and other streams easy to find for 79 euros. It also sold ‘VIP’ access to thousands of otherwise premium channels for around 20 euros per month.
“Thanks to the unique Easy Use Interface, we have the unique 3-step process,” the company’s marketing read.
“Click tile of choice, activate subtitles, and play! Fully automated and instantly the most optimal settings. Our youngest user is 4 years old and the ‘oldest’ 86 years. Ideal for young and old, beginner and expert.”
Of course, being based in the Netherlands it wasn’t long before MovieStreamer caught the attention of BREIN. The anti-piracy outfit says it tried to get the company to stop offering the illegal product but after getting no joy, took the case to court.
From BREIN’s perspective, the case was cut and dried. MovieStreamer had no right to provide access to the infringing content so it was in breach of copyright law (unauthorized communication to the public) and should stop its activities immediately. MovieStreamer, however, saw things somewhat differently.
At the core of its defense was the claim that did it not provide content itself and was merely a kind of middleman. MovieStreamer said it provided only a referral service in the form of a hyperlink formatted as a shortened URL, which in turn brought together supply and demand.
In effect, MovieStreamer claimed that it was several steps away from any infringement and that only the users themselves could activate the shortener hyperlink and subsequent process (including a corresponding M3U playlist file, which linked to other hyperlinks) to access any pirated content. Due to this disconnect, MovieStreamer said that there was no infringement, for-profit or otherwise.
A judge at the District Court in Utrecht disagreed, ruling that by providing a unique hyperlink to customers which in turn lead to protected works was indeed a “communication to the public” based on the earlier Filmspeler case.
The Court also noted that MovieStreamer knew or indeed ought to have known the illegal nature of the content being linked to, not least since BREIN had already informed them of that fact. Since the company was aware, the for-profit element of the GS Media decision handed down by the European Court of Justice came into play.
In an order handed down October 27, the Court ordered MovieStreamer to stop its IPTV hyperlinking activities immediately, whether via its Kodi Easy Use Interface or other means. Failure to do so will result in a 5,000 euro per day fine, payable to BREIN, up to a maximum of 500,000 euros. MovieStreamer was also ordered to pay legal costs of 17,527 euros.
“Moviestreamer sold a link to illegal content. Then you are required to check if that content is legally on the internet,” BREIN Director Tim Kuik said in a statement.
“You can not claim that you have nothing to do with the content if you sell a link to that content.”
Speaking with Tweakers, MovieStreamer owner Bernhard Ohler said that the packages in question were removed from his website on Saturday night. He also warned that other similar companies could experience the same issues with BREIN.
“With this judgment in hand, BREIN has, of course, a powerful weapon to force them offline,” he said.
Ohler said that the margins on hardware were so small that the IPTV subscriptions were the heart of his company. Contacted by TorrentFreak on what this means for his business, he had just two words.
“The end,” he said.