Dutch antipiracy group BREIN has won a landmark case that found a torrent site's former hosting provider was culpable for damages suffered by copyright holders as a result of the site's activities.
The Court of The Hague ruled today that XS Networks, the former host of torrent site SumoTorrent, was guilty of facilitating copyright infringement and should have acted to remove the site when requested to do so. The ruling may have far-reaching implications for hosting providers' liability for the conduct of their clients.
BREIN had asked XS Networks to shut down the torrent search engine and directory and requested personal information of the site's owner. But XS Networks refused, demanding a court order for the information. XS Networks eventually agreed to surrender some information without a court order, but not before SumoTorrent relocated its operations to a provider in the Ukraine.
The court found that XS Networks acted unlawfully by not immediately turning over the requested data to BREIN and by not shutting down the site, according to the ruling (PDF in Dutch).
"The unlawful characteristics of the [activities on] SumoTorrent were evident. Moreover they were obvious to XS Networks, or should have been obvious to XS Networks," the court said.
In addition to legal costs, XS Networks was ordered to pay damages for the infringing content made available on its site, although that amount has yet to be determined. The provider was also ordered to hand over all the personal information it has on SumoTorrent's operator or face a fine of 10,000 euros a day.
Torrent Freak criticized the ruling, saying it sets "a dangerous precedent" in respect to privacy and censorship.
"With this ruling in hand BREIN can ask for the shutdown of any site they deem to be infringing, "as well asking for the personal details of the site owner. Providers who refuse to cooperate will make themselves liable for damages caused by the website in question."