Siti web di storage e scambio file piratati nonchè siti di stream ripping/destreaming realizzano una comunicazione al pubblico

Breve cenno a due recenti sentenze inglesi su temi di attualità.

L’ottimo blog IPKat a firma di Eleonora Rosati dà notizia che per l’Alta corte inglese il sito , sito c.d. cyberlocker (siti di stoccaggio e scambio file, spesso piratati), realizza un’atto di comunicazione al pubblico, per cui è soggetto ad injunction secondo il § 97A del copyright act inglese (che recepisce l’art. 8/3 dir. UE 29/2001.

Si tratta di High Court of Justice 25.02.2021, IL-2018-000221, [2021] EWHC 409 (Ch), Capitol records e altri c. British Telecommunications , Sky e altri.

Gli attori qualificano <<Nitroflare a cyberlocker site: that is a file storage site which makes available unlicenced commercial content, including music files, by allowing users to upload and download unlicensed content to and from its servers. As the Claimants accept, the cyberlocker tag is pejorative and potentially tendentious. I shall therefore look beyond the label and consider the substance of how the Site operates and the services it offers to users>>, § 3.

Secondo la loro versione, accettata dal giudice, <<the Site is deliberately designed to encourage the uploading and downloading of copyright material. They say that it is different from legitimate file storage or file sharing sites. This is why they use the cyberlocker tag. As I said at the outset, the court needs to look beyond the labels and consider the substance of the services offered by the Site.  I shall turn to specific features of the Site in a moment but, in general terms, the Site encourages the sharing of links which it has generated and the downloading of content which it stores. It does this by allowing users to upload content to the Site’s servers for free. Downloads can then be made for free by the Site’s ‘premium’ and ‘non-premium’ users, with download speeds being faster if a user pays for a premium account. The Site also offers an ‘Affiliate Programme’ which rewards users who upload content. It enables those users to earn money each time their uploaded content is downloaded by another user.>> §§ 13-14 (segue descrizione analitica del sito al § 15)

Per gli attori la violazine del sito riguarda sia la comnunicaizone al pubblico (c.a.p.) che l’ <<authorising or acting as joint tortfeasor with the users of the Site in their commission of infringing acts as described below>>, § 21

La c.a.p. ricorre se si risolvono <<three main questions. (a) Is there a communication of copyright works by way of electronic transmission? (b) Is the communication to the public? (c) Does the act of communication to the public take place in the UK? If the communication originates from outside the UK, that depends on whether it is targeted at the public in the UK>> § 22.

Il giudice le ravvisa tutte.

Soprattutto sub a), la posizione della Corte euroepa <<(illustrated by Brein) is that deliberate facilitation of a communication is sufficient to establish an act of communication and that this is shown if the operator had an intention when providing the service to facilitate infringements. I am satisfied that this requirement has been established here. The operator of the Site must know that much of the content on the Site comprises commercially released music and videos and that this is protected by copyright. It must be obvious to the operator that the download and copying of commercially released music requires a licence. Its revenue is derived from advertising and the more downloading takes place, the greater its advertising revenue. The clear inference is that the operator intends to facilitate infringement of copyright. In this regard I also consider that it is telling that the operator of the Site has sought to conceal its identity and has thereby shielded itself from legal process. This adds to the inference that it knows that that the Site is being used to infringe and (given the business structure) intends that it be so used. >> § 27.

La Corte si pone in esplicito contrasto cone le conclusioni 16.07.2020 dell’AG SAUGMANDSGAARD   nel caso Peterson c. Google – Youtube e Elsevier c. Cyando, cause riunite C-682/18 e C-683/18, ritenendo improbabile che verranno seguite dalla Corte, § 26 (conclusioni che invece paiono preferibili in linea teorica).

Interessante è poi la questione sub c) relativa al profilo territoriale, §§ 31-33-

La corte esamina poi la seconda violazione allegata, relativa all’aver autorizzato altri a violare, invocado il precedente del 2010  Twentieth Century Fox v Newzbin [2010] EWCH 608 (Ch)  <<“…The grant or purported grant to do the relevant act may be express or implied from all the relevant circumstances. In a case which involves an allegation of authorisation by supply, these circumstances may include the nature of the relationship between the alleged authoriser and the primary infringer, whether the equipment or other material supplied constitutes the means used to infringe, whether it is inevitable it will be used to infringe, the degree of control which the supplier retains and whether he has taken any steps to prevent infringement. These are matters to be taken into account and may or may not be determinative depending upon all the other circumstances”.>>, § 43.

Non è chiarito il reciproco rapporto tra le due allegate violazioni per gli stessi fatti.

Ne ricorrono tutti i presupposti ivi delineati, §§ 44-63.

In particolare è interessante a livello pratico il ragionamentoe sulla reale assenza, solo declamata , di una policy per prevenire le violazioni (§§ 53 ss).

Ancora, sulla contitolarità dell’atto ilecito, § 64 ss: <<Many of the same factual conclusions that I have set out above are material in this context. I can therefore be brief in enumerating the key features of the Site which are relevant to joint wrongdoing. First, the Site has features which show that it is deliberately structured for the purpose of inducing users to upload commercial content. Users are offered a financial incentive to upload popular content which large numbers of other users are likely to wish to download. This is most likely to consist of commercial content and that in turn is likely to be subject to copyright. Second, the service is provided in a user-friendly fashion. It is free of charge; allows effectively unlimited capacity; and gives uploading users the ability to promote their own uploads by providing them with links which they can supply to others. Third, once content has been uploaded it is freely available to users. There is no restriction (say by password protection) on site-users’ access. Fourth, the reach of the Site is amplified by the referrer sites. Fifth, the evidence summarised earlier shows that very large amounts of protected content is available for download from the Site; and that commercial material accounts for the vast preponderance of the content on the Site. This is not accidental: the Site is, for the reasons already given, designed and structured to facilitate the sharing of commercial (and therefore, probably protected) content. Sixth, the greater the amount of popular, commercial, content on the Site available for downloading, the greater the prospects of profits for the operator (through advertising and subscriptions). Seventh, the steps taken by the Site to remove infringing content are, as already explained, wholly inadequate. The operator has clearly not adopted an effective policy to remove copyright protected content. The reasonable inference is that it would be contrary to the operator’s financial interests to do so (see the sixth point above). The Site does not merely make available the means of infringement; it thrives on infringement. This explains the incentives given to users to upload popular content>>, § 65

Di conseguenza per il giudice i gestori del sito <<have induced, incited or procured users of the Site to commit infringements of copyright (profiting from so doing) and that they and the users act pursuant to a common design to infringe. The operators are therefore jointly liable for the infringements committed by users>> § 65.

Infine il ragionamento condotto per dire che la misura inibitoria è “proportionate”:

<<I consider that the order sought is proportionate for the following reasons.

  • First, the Defendants do not oppose the making of the order. It can therefore be taken that it is proportionate as between the parties.
  • Second, I am satisfied that the order is necessary to protect the rights of the Claimants and the other record company Members of BPI and PPL. The Site is being used to infringe those rights on a large scale (see above).
  • Third, the Claimants’ Recordings and more generally the copyright recordings of the Members are available to be enjoyed by ISP subscribers using legal digital music services.
  • Fourth, the Site is not only being used to infringe the copyrights in music recordings (and the musical and literary copyrights embodied in them). Mr Walsh’s evidence shows that over 90% of the links on the Site are to content which is likely to be copyright-controlled.
  • On the other hand, it is possible that the Site could be used for some legitimate storage purposes, which will be adversely affected by any blocking order. However I am satisfied that users are highly unlikely to be using the Site in this way on a significant scale. There are a number of features including the automatic deletion policy and the lack of password protection, encryption or syncing functions, which render the Site unsuitable for cloud storage. I therefore consider that the risk of interfering with legitimate storage of data is negligible.
  • Fifth, the Order has been carefully drafted (following judicial guidance in earlier authorities) so as to ensure that it does the minimum necessary to achieve its objective.
  • Sixth, as the Courts have repeatedly noted in the cases I have already referred to, such orders are effective. The evidence shows that blocking orders have proved effective, notwithstanding attempts to circumvent them: following the making of previous blocking orders on the application of BPI, UK visitors to those websites have been drastically reduced. For the 38 websites for which data was available in the month prior to their being blocked, the data shows an average reduction of UK visitors of 98%.
  • Seventh, to the extent that rights of users or operators of the Site are engaged, given my conclusions on infringement, their interests are outweighed by the interests of the Claimants and of the Members in enforcing their copyrights: cf. FAPL v Sky at [59]>> § 70 ss

Purtroppo, l’ordine, che verrà poi  concretamente impartito, pare non sarà reso pubblico, ma che resterà confidenziale.

Il medesimo blog , poi, riferisce dell’altra sentenza con stessa data, corte e giudice relatore,  Young Turks Recordings, Warner recordings e altri c. British Telecommunication , Sky UK ed altri, case n° IL-2020-000223,  [2021] EWHC 410 (Ch).

La fattispecie è analoga , ma  non uguale, differendo per la modalità tecnologica adottata dai siti pirata.

Queste le domande e allegazioni attoree: <<requiring them to take measures to block their subscribers’ access to certain websites (“the Infringing Sites” or “the Sites”). The Claimants submit that the operators of the Infringing Sites are directly infringing and/or jointly and severally liable for the infringement of copyrights owned by/exclusively licensed to Members. The Claimants also submit that the infringement they allege involves wholesale circumvention of technological protection measures (“TPMs”)>>, § 2.

La modalità tecnica per la riproduzione/comunicaizone al pubblico era lo stream ripping anche detto destreaming: <<the Claimants submit that all of the Infringing Sites have participated in and/or have enabled a process called “stream ripping”, i.e. the “ripping” of audio files used with music videos that are offered on streaming services, in particular YouTube. Stream ripping is a process whereby streamed audio content is converted into permanent audio downloads which can be stored for future consumption and/or shared with others. The Claimants’ evidence explains that this is one of the fastest growing forms of online infringement of copyright in sound recordings and the most prevalent>>, § 4.

E poi: <<Streaming content is different from permanently downloading it. Streaming involves the contemporaneous digital transmission of content via the internet to the user’s device for real-time viewing or listening. No permanent download is made and if the user wishes to access the content again he or she has to stream it again. Permanent downloading results in the user having a digital version of the content which (once the download is complete) can be used as often as the user wants and (subject to copyright protection measures) shared with others.  There are different business models and pricing systems for streaming and downloading. Streaming is normally funded by advertising or user subscription. A permanent download is a one-off transaction.>>, §§ 19-20.

In breve con lo stream ripping si possono memorizzare su supporto stabile tramite l’app. Downloader App i dati arrivati in strraming , sì da poterne fare download in qualunque momento successivo.

 I siti convenuti erano responsabili (anche di elusione delle technological protection measures (“TPMs”, § 39) della predisposizione dlele possibilità di violazione: v. dettagli tecnici ai §§ 35-37: <<the evidence establishes that each of the Infringing Sites has been involved in the provision of stream-ripping functionality. The present activities of the active sites can be summarised as follows:  i) Flvto, Flv2mp3, 2Conv and H2Converter each provide a stream ripping service to visitors to the site.  ii) MP3Studio provides the Downloader App. Flvto, Flv2mp3 and 2Conv (which are closely connected) also make the Downloader App available by linking to MP3Studio. MP3Studio does not provide a stream ripping service to visitors to the site.    As I mentioned in [3(i)] above, there are four other sites which do not appear to be operating at the moment. Flvtool was used by other Infringing Sites as a “back end” server and provided the Downloader App. 2Convert provided the Downloader App. H2Download and Ytbapi operated as back end domains for H2Converter, assisting in the conversion process and storing ripped content.    There are thus some differences in the functionality of the Infringing Sites. However each site:

i) provides a stream ripping service by a simple and convenient user interface which enables users to obtain downloads ripped from YouTube (and other platforms); and/or

ii) provides or promotes the Downloader App; or

iii) provides back-end facilities to assist in the operation of the Infringing Sites and the Downloader App>>

Qui interessa il ruolo dei providers (operators) , giudicati respnsabili sia di violazione diretta per aver autorizzato la violazione ex s. 16 copyright act, § 52 ss, sia per correponsabilità (tortfeasors), § 68 ss: <<First, I am satisfied that the Infringing Sites are designed to provide a service which enables users to make infringing copies. The whole purpose of the technology they provide is to circumvent the copyright-protecting safeguards built into the streaming services. Second, the service is provided in a user-friendly fashion. Third, users have access to massive amounts of protected, commercial, material. Fourth, the greater the amount of activity on the Sites and the Downloader App the greater the prospect of profits (through advertising and payment for conversions). Fifth, the steps taken by the Sites to prevent copying of infringing content are, as already explained, wholly inadequate. The operators have clearly not adopted an effective policy to prevent copying of protected content. Sixth, the ownership and control of the Sites is deliberately obscure and confusing which leads to an inference they wish to avoid protective steps being taken by commercial rights holders >>, § 70.

In particolare il diritto(facoltà  violato è la comuncazione al pubblico, § 72 ss.

Va quindi concessa la inibitoria chiesta, § 103.

Anche qui non è chiaro il reciproco rapporto tra le due violazioni contestate ai provider.