By Chris Cooke | Published on Wednesday 28 July 2021
The operator of stream-ripping services FLVTO and 2conv has decided to bail on his ongoing legal dispute with the major record companies. Which isn’t generally how things work when you’re the defendant in a case. But basically Tofig Kurbanov is employing the “I live 5000 miles away, so what the fuck you going do about that?” tactic.
Stream-ripping sites – which turn temporary streams, often YouTube streams, into permanent downloads – have been the music industry’s top piracy gripe for years now, of course. The argument being that such sites are involved in the infringement of copyright. Which is why the majors decided to sue Kurbanov as the operator of FLVTO and 2conv.
While most stream-ripping sites targeted by litigation in this way just ignore the legal action and/or quietly go offline, Kurbanov decided to fight back. His initial argument was that as a Russian citizen running a Russian internet business from Russia, the US courts had no jurisdiction.
That argument initially worked and the record industry’s lawsuit was dismissed. But it was then reinstated on appeal and when Kurbanov tried to take his jurisdiction arguments to the US Supreme Court, judges there declined to hear the case.
That meant the matter returned to the district court in Virginia where it began. Most recently the labels have been trying to force Kurbanov to hand over his server logs so that they can see what content his users are ripping and where those users are based.
Kurbanov said he didn’t have any such data. The majors countered that he should do, and that the court should force him to start storing and sharing the data they require. Kurbanov argued that doing so would be a major hassle, and also pose all sorts of privacy and data protection concerns.
Nevertheless, the court in Virginia concluded that asking Kurbanov to store and share some basic server data wasn’t, in fact, that much of an ask, and therefore ordered him to do so. But Kurbanov really doesn’t want to do that and – still believing the courts in Virgina actually have no jurisdiction over him or his business – he’s decided to ignore that demand and the entire American legal case against him.
In a recent legal filing with the court, the American lawyers who had been working for Kurbanov stated: “Despite the efforts of counsel for defendant, Mr Kurbanov has made clear that he does not intend to cooperate further with the present litigation or counsel’s attempts to mount an effective defence on his behalf. Mr Kurbanov has indicated that he will not provide counsel for defendant with any additional discovery and will not sit for his previously-noticed deposition”.
They added that, despite the original ruling on jurisdiction being overturned on appeal, “Mr Kurbanov has never believed that he is properly subject to jurisdiction in Virginia or the United States. As a result of Mr Kurbanov’s firm conviction that he is not subject to personal jurisdiction in this court, he has been reluctant to participate in the present proceedings and has, indeed, declined to provide discovery as requested by plaintiffs and as ordered by this court”.
Because of this development, the lawyers have requested to be allowed to withdraw from the case. One of them, Evan Fray-Witzer, has told Torrentfreak that he is disappointed that he will not be able to continue working on Kurbanov’s defence, reckoning his now ex-client had a decent case.
“We’re obviously disappointed that this is how things are ending”, he said. “We’ve always believed that the case was a strong one on the merits and that websites like Mr Kurbanov’s simply provide a legitimate tool with numerous non-infringing uses”.
On the jurisdiction point, Fray-Witzer added: “At the end of the day … Mr Kurbanov is an individual who lives in Russia, who has operated the websites exclusively from Russia, and who has had almost no contact with the United States whatsoever. The whole issue of personal jurisdiction in such a context continues to cry out for guidance from the Supreme Court”.
The labels will now likely win this case by default and may well be awarded sizeable damages which Kurbanov will presumably refuse to pay. Though, at that point, the labels could possibly seek to try and grab his domain names, or put pressure on other internet providers to stop working with him.
This case might also help the music industry argue that the web-blocking injunctions that are now easily available in other countries, like the UK, should be finally introduced in the US, given that they are mainly designed to deal with foreign copyright infringers who ignore legal action filed against them.