IT'S 2019 AND the music industry still hasn't entirely cottoned on to how this whole internet thing works. Yes, it's embraced Spotify and the like (kind of) and it even accepts that MTV 2.0 (or "YouTube") might be worth using from time to time. But it still has a problem with pirates trying to listen to songs without adverts, which is why its latest villain is YouTube ripping websites: a phenomenon more deadly than the VCR and Mini Disk combined.
The RIAA has been chasing these sites with some success. YouTube-MP3 closed after legal pressure back in 2017, and others shut up shop preemptively rather than face a court summons. But now we have an interesting case study in what happens for sites that stand their ground, and it's not good news for the RIAA - as long as the plaintiff in question is based overseas.
Rather than settling or shutting down his websites voluntarily, Russian developer Tofig Kurbanov filed a motion to dismiss a case from the RIAA arguing that the site was managed from Russia, and only a small part of its total traffic came from the United States.
According to Torrent Freak, Judge Claude M. Hilton has offered a 14-page opinion where he ultimately agrees with Kurbanov: the site doesn't target US users and it isn't hosted in the US, and thus it can't be tried there. Thus the main thrust of the case - is what it does illegal? - can't even be considered.
"Even if the Websites' servers knew exactly where the users were located, any interaction would still be in the unilateral control of the users as they initiate the contacts," the report reads.
Personal jurisdiction could be applied if a commercial contract were found, but given the sites' revenue is entirely ad-based, no such contract exists. "The Court finds that exercise of personal jurisdiction over Defendant would be unconstitutional as a violation of due process," Judge Hilton's report concludes. Case dismissed.
"This decision goes a long way towards curbing the copyright owners' misuse of the US legal system to bully foreign website operators," Val Gurvits, a lawyer for Kurbanov told Torrent Freak. "We are happy we were able to save our client from having to defend this action in a US court thousands of miles away from where the relevant business activities take place." µ
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