HB Productions, the company that owns the copyrights to the movie Hellboy, is suing the operator of torrent site YTS.lt. The complaint, filed at a federal court in Hawaii, also targets 19 “John Doe” users who allegedly shared YTS’s Hellboy torrent. Through the lawsuit the movie company hopes to recoup some of its claimed losses.
YTS is the most-visited torrent site on the Internet. It specializes in uploading movies, which are widely shared online.
The site ‘unofficially’ took over the YTS brand after the original group quit four years ago. Since then, it has amassed a rather impressive user base of millions of daily visitors.
The site is a major source of frustration for the movie industry but, thus far, copyright holders haven’t been able to do much about it. Recently, however, pressure has been mounting.
A few weeks ago trouble started when a group of movie companies sued the site’s operator, who they accused of inducing massive copyright infringement. Following this lawsuit, the site moved to a new domain name, YTS.lt, but that didn’t end the problems.
In a new lawsuit filed at a Hawaiian Federal Court, the site is now being targeted by HB Productions. The company, which is an affiliate of Millennium Media, owns the copyright to the popular movie “Hellboy“. Among other things, it accuses the site and several of its users of copyright infringement.
“Plaintiff brings this action to stop the massive piracy of its motion picture Hellboy brought on by websites under the collective names YTS and their users,” the complaint reads.
“Defendant JOHN DOE promotes its website for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how the users use the websites,” it adds.
According to the movie company, YTS.lt has sufficient ties to the US and Hawaii to warrant jurisdiction. Among other things, it uses or used services of US-based companies, including Cloudflare, Level 3 Communications, Inc., and QuadraNet, the complaint clarifies.
To conceal its identity, the site operator allegedly used the American VPN provider London Trust Media, which owns Private Internet Access. For the same purpose, it also used the tunneling service from Hurricane Electric and the TOR service.
Despite the attempts to conceal, the Hellboy rightsholders managed to find some breadcrumbs. For example, the WHOIS details list “TechModo Limited” as the registrant of the YTS.lt domain. Whether this will lead anywhere is unknown, as that UK-company was dissolved late April.
Another lead comes from Hurricane Electric. After Cloudflare revealed that the YTS operator used Hurricane’s tunneling service to login, the movie company sent a subpoena to Hurricane, which revealed that the person in question used a Hotmail account and an IP-address from the Canadian ISP Cogeco.
“Hurricane has indicated that an individual who identified himself by a verified Hotmail email address from a location in Ontario, Canada subscribed for the so-called tunneling service with Hurricane to tunnel its true IPv4 address to the IPv6 address of Hurricane,” HB Productions notes.
The movie company plans to use this information to find the YTS operator. At this point, it’s unclear if it actually belongs to the person who runs the site, but the rightsholder believes that it points to at least one of the operators.
The complaint further alleges that the defendant created the “Hellboy (2019) [WEBRip] [1080p] [YTS.LT]” torrent, which was made available through YTS.lt and other torrent sites. The other defendants, who are all Hawaiian subscribers of ISP Spectrum, then downloaded and shared this file.
While the mastermind behind the site might not be easy to track down, the 19 “John Doe” users being sued might be easier to find. They are all known by Spectrum IP-addresses. While the account holders are not necessarily the people who shared “Hellboy,” it’s certainly a more concrete lead.
That said, these individual downloaders are small fish compared to the YTS operator.
The movie company hopes that, through this lawsuit, it will be able to recoup some of its alleged losses. It accuses the YTS operator and its users of contributory and direct copyright infringement, while tagging on a claim of intentional inducement against the former.
HB Productions also requests an injunction to stop the defendants’ infringing activities and to prevent third-party intermediaries such as hosting companies, domain registrars, and search engines, form facilitating access to the YTS domains.
Whether the court will grant these requests remains to be seen. In the other lawsuit against YTS we mentioned earlier, the Hawaiian Federal Court wasn’t convinced that it has personal jurisdiction over the alleged operator of the site.
A copy of the complaint filed by HB Productions is available here (pdf).
Many thanks to TorrentFreak for the breaking news.