A hot potato: People who use a VPN to download a movie illegally might assume they’re safe, but the makers of a Hollywood blockbuster have filed a lawsuit against 17 individuals for doing just that. Many of the defendants used VPN service Private Internet Access (PIA), and while it doesn’t keep logs, third-party subpoenas could be used to uncover the alleged pirates’ identities.
TorrentFreak reports that the case was brought by Fallen Productions, the company behind 2019’s Gerard Butler-staring Angel Has Fallen. The lawsuit, filed at a federal court in Colorado, lists 14 unidentified defendants who allegedly used PIA to download the action title.
While the identity of the accused is unknown, the case uses information from the YTS pirate site’s database, which was shared earlier this year as part of a settlement in another copyright infringement case.
Fallen Productions’ attorney has requested subpoenas to gain more information about the defendants from ISPs, email providers, and Private Internet Access. PIA, however, does not keep logs—something that has been repeatedly confirmed in courts. But attorney Kerry Culpepper, who is representing Fallen Productions, is still requesting a subpoena.
“It is relevant because it shows they tried to hide their activities. It shows consciousness of the illegal activities,” he told TorrentFreak
“Private Internet Access has not received a subpoena in regards to this case,” the VPN provider said. “Even if we do, our response will be the same as always: PIA does not log VPN user activity.”
While most of the defendants are not from the state of Colorado, where PIA is based, signing the terms of service meant they agreed to jurisdiction in Colorado no matter where they are located.
The complaint claims all the defendants received at least one DMCA notice, while fifteen were contacted repeatedly via email with cease and desist notices and settlement offers, but the warnings were ignored.
This isn’t the first instance of movie producers going after individuals accused of downloading titles illegally. In 2015, makers of the Dallas Buyers Club were granted the right to contact almost 5,000 iiNet ISP users in Australia to seek damages for copyright infringement. The order was put on hold as the court requested to see letters the alleged infringers would receive. As it was unclear how much money the company wanted people to pay, the court blocked it from accessing customers’ details. Lawyers decided not to appeal.