British arm of the Motion Picture Association of America, FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft), has taken a step beyond lobbying to have sites blocked and sending out legal threats to consumers, now it’s trying to blackmail a Dutch ISP into shutting down a torrent website by threatening it with a money laundering suit if it doesn’t comply.
The site in question is TheShowDepot.com and like a lot of sites out there it streams copyright protected media and this is exactly what FACT is going after. However because it’s far too time consuming to target sites individually, it’s doing what the MPAA, BPI and other groups have begun doing and instead is gunning for the ISP. Unlike the others though, FACT isn’t trying to have a high-court issue a court order to take the site down or block it, instead it’s threatening to take legal action against the ISP unless it agrees to the demands.
“We are requesting the removal of the whole domain from your servers. The website serves no purpose other than to provide access to copyright protected media,” FACT’s email to the host, Leaseweb stated.
Ultimately Leaseweb (the same ISP that deleted all that content from stored Megaupload servers) complied and blocked the IP address of TheShowDepot. While this seems rather harsh considering that only one complaint was received about this site, you can sympathise with Leaseweb’s actions a little more when you read the threats FACT made to the ISP.
“The fact that LeaseWeb are now aware of this means that should you continue to facilitate the illegal activities of ‘theshowdepot.com’ and accept payment for doing so then ‘LeaseWeb’ may be committing associated money laundering offenses,” it reads (via Torrentfreak. “If the Domain continues to operate whilst being hosted on LeaseWeb servers FACT will consider escalating the action.”
However according to Leaseweb, it didn’t take the site down because of the legal threats, but because it was complying with the host country’s (The Netherlands) obligations to content owners. The owner said in a statement that he didn’t understand the need for such “strong arm” tactics, since his company is always happy to comply with relevant and legitimate concerns.
KitGuru Says: FACT’s actions here are unsurprising, but also a bit of a stretch. It’s not really been proved that content platforms are legally responsible for what their users post, let alone the hosting providers of those same sites. If that was the case, you’d have every ISP in the world liable for legal action as soon as someone did something illegal online and it wouldn’t stop there. Beyond that the browser makers would get into trouble and then the operating system makers, all of them facilitate piracy.
But what FACT forgets is that they do much more than just that. FACT is a selfish organisation and it’s not surprising since it’s funded by the people it’s trying to defend the copyright of. It needs to look busy and look menacing because otherwise it won’t get sponsored, but these far-from-veiled threats seem like a massive overstretch of the group’s influence and powers. It’s lucky that it didn’t get hit by Leaseweb with black mail charges.