Strike 3 Holdings has targeted thousands of alleged BitTorrent pirates in U.S. courts over the past several years. Up until recently, the company relied on evidence gathered by a third-party piracy tracking firm. However, new court filings show that Strike 3 now has its own in-house surveillance tool called VXN Scan.
Three years ago, Strike 3 Holdings had never filed a single lawsuit, but today the company has thousands of cases on its record.
These lawsuits are being filed across the United States, targeting people whose Internet connections were allegedly used to download and share copyright-infringing content via BitTorrent.
In the case of Strike 3, this refers to adult videos that are made available via the Blacked, Tushy, and Vixen websites. The company’s legal campaign has kept the courts busy and contributed to a record-breaking breaking number of piracy lawsuits.
Last summer the company suddenly stopped filing new lawsuits in federal court, but in December its efforts started up again. While the new complaints were very similar to the previous ones, there is a striking difference.
Previously, Strike 3 relied on evidence from the German company IPP International, which tracks file-sharing activity that takes place via BitTorrent networks. However, in the new cases Strike 3 is relying on evidence produced by its own tracking system.
“Plaintiff has developed, owns, and operates an infringement detection system,” Strike 3 wrote. In a complaint filed this week, it gets more specific by adding a name for its system: ‘VXN Scan’.
“Using VXN Scan, Plaintiff discovered that Defendant used the BitTorrent file network to illegally download and distribute Plaintiff’s copyrighted motion pictures,” Strike 3 informed a Virginia federal court.
The switch to the in-house tracking system coincided with Strike 3’s hiatus in filing new federal lawsuits. It’s unclear, however, why that happened. It could be an effort to save costs or the company may have severed its ties to IPP International for another reason.
The mention of the new detection system was highlighted by defense attorney Jeffrey Antonelli who also observed another change in Strike 3’s strategy. In addition to the torrent hash, the copyright holder now lists a file-hash as evidence as well.
This addition may very well be a response to a recent order in a Washington federal court, where Judge Zilly ordered Strike 3 to pay $47,777 to cover the fees and costs of an accused man. In this case, the Judge noted that torrent hashes are not sufficient to pinpoint an infringing file.
The complaint also mentions that the defendant is not the subscriber of the linked IP-address. This case address was previously mentioned in another case, so it’s possible that Strike 3 obtained extra information about the alleged pirate from the account holder.
Whether the new complaint and in-house tracking system will be able to withstand scrutiny from defense lawyers has yet to be seen. Thus far, Strike 3’s technology hasn’t been tested in court.
That said, the description does raise some questions. According to the adult video producer, VXN Scan doesn’t “upload content to any BitTorrent user” because “it is incapable of doing so.” At the same time, however, the defendants are accused of “downloading” pirated content.
Technically, a tracking system that merely downloads content can’t prove that other users downloaded anything, only that they uploaded material. That said, the complaint would still be valid if defendants only uploaded files, when they are not authorized to do so.
All in all, it’s clear that Strike 3 doesn’t plan to halt its legal efforts anytime soon. The company previously started experimenting by filing lawsuits in county court and with its own tracking system, the related scheme may become even more profitable.
A copy of Strike 3’s complaint mentioning the new VXN Scan detection system is available here (pdf).
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.