Pirate streaming services are booming. Copyright holders are working hard to contain this problem by going after hosting services. However, not all platforms are taking content offline. Go Unlimited infamously offers a “DMCA-ignore” hosting solution, which it believes is entirely legal. While Hollywood clearly disagrees, pirate streaming sites are happy.
Video streaming is more popular than ever. This is true for the YouTubes and Netflixes of this world, but also for pirate sites.
The influx of dedicated pirate streaming sites has triggered a cat and mouse game. Pirate sites are constantly trying to find stable hosting platforms, while rightsholders, Hollywood included, work hard to take videos down.
These takedowns can be fairly effective. Most hosting platforms, even those frequently used by shady sites, accept takedown DMCA requests. As a result, the streaming portals often have to replace their videos, which can be quite a frustrating experience.
This is also what Bader, the operator of the popular streaming portal Fushaar.com, noticed. The Kuwaiti entrepreneur operates several streaming sites which are predominantly popular in Arabic speaking countries. Fushaar, for example, is the 38th most visited website in Saudi Arabia.
Faced with a lack of stable ‘takedown resistant’ hosting providers to stream videos from, Bader decided to start one of his own, GO Unlimited.
“When I launched GO Unlimited in January 2016, I planned to host videos from my own websites, so it was a private video host. At the time my own websites were more than enough to bring in a lot of income for GO Unlimited,” Bader tells TorrentFreak.
When this went well for a few months, Go Unlimited opened up to others. That started late 2016 when the now-defunct GoMovies.to joined. A major addition, as that was the most popular pirate streaming site on the web at the time.
This also brought the video hosting platform to the attention of major copyright holders, which started to complain.
“When GoMovies.to joined, the journey started. The DMCA requests became more aggressive and more serious, so we started to use our own techniques to hide the original source of the video, so rightsholders didn’t have any resources to report,” Bader says.
While the operator of Go Unlimited doesn’t go into detail, the site effectively hides where the videos are hosted. Because they are not residing on the website’s own domain name, the site ignores DMCA takedowns and similar notices.
That didn’t stop rightsholders from submitting requests via escalating emails with titles such as URGENTLY, LAST WARNING, and LEGAL ACTIONS AHEAD, which kept pouring in. From then on, these were ignored though.
“Thanks to our techniques, by hiding the original source of the videos and misleading the networks providers, we were able to ignore the DMCA takedown requests for GoMovies,” Bader says.
While rightsholders, including Hollywood’s MPAA, will disagree, the site’s operator believes that he’s not doing anything wrong here.
“We’re a licensed company in Kuwait and we’re a 100% legal service since we host nothing illegal at our main domain, nor do transfer copyrighted materials through our public services,” Bader says.
For the same reason, the operator also believes that the domain name is safe. None of the hosted videos are directly hosted on the Gounlimited.to domain, so there’s nothing to complain about, the argument goes.
Upon closer inspection, it appears that Go Unlimited does disable videos for public viewing on its site on some occasions. However, third-party embeds of the same videos still work. This means that the uploaders can still use them on their own sites.
Whether the actual videos are stored on or viewed from the official domain or not, rightsholders will point out that under most copyright laws, the site has an obligation to remove them.
Bader disagrees, however, and is not worried about any legal pressure or consequences. While he has had to make some adjustments along the way to keep network providers happy, he hasn’t run into any trouble personally.
“I am not afraid of any pressure, I use my personal credit cards to buy the resources and I’ve provided the network providers with my legal documents many times,” Bader says.
One of the most significant setbacks has been Cloudflare’s recent decision to terminate the site’s account. The US-based CDN provider took this decision following a violation of its terms.
This is similar to what happened with other hosting platforms, such as Rapidvideo, which was thrown out for caching a disproportionate amount of non-HTML files. Neither Rapidvideo nor Go Unlimited used Cloudflare to cache video, however.
While Cloudflare didn’t mention copyright as the reason in this case either, Go Unlimited’s operator believes that it certainly played a role.
“Our usage graph at CloudFlare shows less usage than websites with the same size who haven’t faced any problems so far and we didn’t host any media at their platform or violated their terms in any way,” Bader says.
“If it was a matter of resources, why didn’t they contact me first? Or asked me to upgrade my plan?”
While Go Unlimited suffered a few hours of downtime due to the suspension, the site swiftly returned, and since then it’s been business as usual.
Thus far the DMCA-ignore policy is working well for Go Unlimited. The site is not open to all uploaders but works with “trusted members” instead. There are a few hundreds of these now, which have all gone through a thorough vetting process.
The number of actual visitors is impressive though. Bader estimates that Go Unlimited has roughly 150 million visitors per month, which are good for some rather decent ad revenue for the hosting providers as well as the uploaders.
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.