A city court in Russia has sentenced the owner of pirate streaming websites for violating copyright and related rights under the Russian Criminal Code. The pirate made money by posting infringing video content, including movies and TV shows. By verdict of the court, the criminal was given a 2-year suspended sentence. This sets a judicial precedent in Russia.
In 2018, Group-IB Anti-Piracy experts discovered a large network of pirate streaming websites, consisting of kinogb.guru, kinokot.biz and fosa.me, as well as a dozen of their mirrors, including kinogb.site, kinogb.me, kinogb.life, kinogb.cc, kinogb.mobi, kinokot.me, and kinogb.tv. The library for each pirate website contained more than 10,000 titles and included the latest movie releases and other popular films and TV shows. The suspect had been receiving content from Moonwalk CDN, one of the largest pirate CDNs (content distribution networks), which was taken down in October 2019. As usual, the advertisers for the streaming websites were online casinos, which also distributed ready-made pirated video content with embedded advertising through CDN providers.
As part of copyright protection services, Group-IB specialists repeatedly warned the owner of the pirate network about copyright infringement and demanded that the illegal use of third-party intellectual property be stopped. The suspected perpetrator failed to respond to the warnings, however, and created new mirrors every time that illegal resources were blocked. During the investigation initiated by the copyright holder, Group-IB identified digital traces of the suspected perpetrator and established their identity.
The owner of the kinogb network turned out to be a highly secretive and cautious individual: they did not have genuine social media accounts and were not registered on any forums. Nevertheless, Group-IB’s investigation department quickly picked up their trail. During the investigative activities carried out by the law enforcement agencies in the spring of 2019, the owner of the pirate network was detained. The suspected perpetrator was accused of violating copyright and related rights, which could be punishable by imprisonment for up to six years, with or without a fine of up to $8,000 or equaling the amount of the convicted individual’s wage, salary, any other income over a period of up to three years. During the questioning, the pirate confessed and agreed to cooperate with the investigators. The criminal case was sent to a Russian city court. At the hearing, however, the defendant refused to plead guilty and waived the final plea. In December 2019, the owner of the pirate websites received a 2-year suspended sentence with a 3-year probation period.
This case has set an important precedent that could help bring other owners of pirate resources to criminal responsibility. Pirates are part of organized criminal groups: some groups record videos in movie theaters, while others translate and dub films. Others still adapt and publish content online. Only criminal prosecution combined with tighter anti-piracy legislation can reduce the number of people engaging in this type of illegal business.
Director of Brand Protection and Anti-Piracy at Group-IB
According to Group-IB estimates, in 2019, for the first time in 5 years, the online piracy market in Russia has not only stopped growing, but also showed a decline. Today, its volume amounts to $63.5 million, which is 27% less than in 2018. Group-IB experts believe that the key reasons for the collapse in the income of Russian online pirates include: a blow to the advertising model of monetization of pirate resources, the shutdown of three major CDNs that provided pirated video content to 90% of illegal streaming websites in Russia and the post-Soviet region, improvements to legislation, and the signing of an anti-piracy memorandum.
Group-IB‘s fight against digital piracy started in 2011, when its Anti-Piracy Department was established. Anti-Piracy team uses unique machine-learning technologies applied to complex investigations of cyberattacks in order to detect pirate websites, identify their owners, and block infringing content. Group-IB’s Anti-Piracy system monitors 100,000+ resources in all languages, ranging from torrent trackers and streaming services to social media groups and pirate platforms on the DarkNet. The average time to detect the first pirated copy on the Internet is 30 minutes. Group-IB’s team successfully blocks the majority of infringing content within 24 hours of it appearing on the Internet.