SAN DIEGO, Calif.—In September of last year, Liberty Media Holdings, parent company of online gay adult content provider Corbin Fisher, successfully shut down pornilove.com, a gay content pirate site that at the time CEO Jason Gibson explained operated its “theft scam” in coordination with Hotfile.com, a free file hosting and sharing service. Liberty has now filed suit in an action that characterizes Hotfile.com and other defendants as “a confederation of intellectual property thieves.”
Corbin Fisher general counsel Marc Randazza filed the lawsuit Jan. 6 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, naming Hotfile, Anton Titov, Lemuria Communications, PayPal and 1-1000 John Does as defendants. According to the 27-page complaint, Titov is an “alter ego of Defendant Hotfile” and also “the sole owner of the stock of Defendants Hotfile and Lemuria,” the latter of which is described as “the alter ego of Defendant Titiv,” and a “Florida corporation that provides hosting services to Defendant Hotfile.com to facilitate mass copyright infringement.”
The John Doe defendants, unknown at the time of the filing, according to the complaint, posted Liberty’s “copyrighted works on Defendant Hotfile’s website and/or on Defendant Lemuria’s servers.
PayPal, a defendant that is pointedly not included in the “confederation of intellectual property thieves,” seems to be added as a defendant because it allegedly has the “care, custody and control of multiple bank accounts owned by various defendants.” The complaint requests that the court order PayPal to freeze all assets and funds in any accounts belonging to the defendants pending the outcome of the case.
More generally, the complaint alleges a vast conspiracy on the part of all of the defendants, excluding PayPal, to use a warped business model built on a potentially legitimate platform.
“Defendant Hotfile.com, like Grokster before it, has a theoretically legitimate use. Certainly there are large files that users might want to share with other users with no illegal content. Defendant Hotfile’s practical and overwhelmingly popular application, however, is singular and transparent: To profit from the illegal sharing of copyrighted materials, many of which are the intellectual property of Liberty.” The suit alleges 800 known instances of Corbin Fisher content illegally uploaded to Hotfile.com.
The complaint also alleges that the Hotfile business model, which it calls a “pyramid,” encourages and abets copyright infringement.
“Defendant Hotfile.com’s financial model works in this manner: a user uploading a file to Defendant Hotfile.com receives a ‘referral fee’ if another, separate user signs up for Defendant Hotfile.com’s premium download service as a result of seeing the newly uploaded file. Defendant Hofile.com receives revenue from members paying for the ‘premium membership package.’”
The plaintiff also states that Hotfile.com is not allowed the protection of safe harbor provisions provided by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) because, “During the times relevant to this Complaint, Defendant Hotfile.com failed and refused to register a DMCA agent in the United States Copyright Office.”
In addition to injunctive and declaratory relief, Liberty is asking the court to freeze all domains owned and operated by the defendants—excluding PayPal—and all assets and funds in their PayPal accounts, a full audit of amounts owed the plaintiff, reasonable attorneys fees and statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work. It also wants the court to issue an order “finding all the Defendants were involved in a civil conspiracy to commit the aforementioned wrongful acts and are therefore all jointly and severally liable for all of the co-conspirators’ acts.”
Multiplying the 800 acts of infringement by $150,000 comes to $120,000,000.
Corbin Fisher attorney Marc Randazza declined to be interviewed for this article. AVN is attempting to contact the defendants or their attorneys.
The Liberty v Hotfile complaint can be read here.