France: ACE shut down two pirate domains that served more than 1.5B visits over three years

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Uptobox and Uptostream were shut down after raids on two data centers, Scaleway and OpCore near Paris on September 20.  Additional raids were conducted in the United Arab Emirates.

Most users were in France, but also from Indonesia, India and Mexico, who could stream or download copyright-protected titles at no cost or by paid premium subscription.

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The two French nationals who ran the illegal service are based in Dubai, where they amassed illegal gains from selling advertising and premium subscriptions, according to a news release by ACE, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, an arm of the Motion Picture Association.  The original infringement complaints were filed by Disney, Paramount, Columbia, Warner Bros., StudioCanal, Apple and Amazon; all ACE members.

There was history

ALPA, the French anti-piracy association, had obtained a blocking order for Uptobox and Uptostream in France earlier in 2023.  ACE and the Motion Picture Association work in collaboration with global agencies, including ALPA, to digital piracy.

In a 2019 report about illegal media services by Ernst & Young, published by the French regulatory authority HADOPI, Uptobox had more than 2.5 million visitors in November 2017, while Uptostream had more than 750,000; the largest and fourth-largest piracy operations in France, respectively. HADOPI has been superceded by the French agency ARCOM.

Monthly unique visitors to selected hosting sites, including Uptobox and Uptostream (Source: HADOPI 2019)

The offenders are likely to be subject to fines and further penalties for copyright infringement.  In addition, individual consumers found to be subscribers to the services could also be subject to legal action.

Further reading

ACE shuts down massive-scale illegal video hosting service in France.  Press release. September 20, 2023. Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE)

Uptobox suffers outage after raids on French data centers.  Article. September 21, 2023. by Georgia Butler. Data Center Dynamics

The illicit ecosystem of digital cultural goods. Report. January 2019. HADOPI (High Authority for the dissemination of works and the protection of rights on the Internet)

Why it matters

“The action we announced today demonstrates that even the most sophisticated piracy operations are not above the law,” said Jan van Voorn, Executive Vice President and Global Content Protection Chief of the Motion Picture Association and Head of ACE. “This case sends a strong message to criminal operators that their illegal actions will be put to an end eventually. They may think their operations are undercover, but ACE has the network, resources and expertise to identify them and shut them down.”

“Canal+ supports swift action when acts of piracy compromise intellectual property rights, which in turn has an impact on our business,” said Céline Boyer, Head of Content Protection at Canal+. “Our partnership with ACE is essential to ensuring that the creative marketplace continues to thrive by addressing content piracy at its source.”

Quoted in a press release by ACE, Nathalie Bobineau, Senior Vice President of International Development of French public broadcaster France Televisions, said “France Televisions has zero tolerance for piracy and illegal distribution of content and channels. By collaborating with ACE, we reinforce our commitment to upholding the principles of copyright protection and preserving the value of original content.”

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