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Early December, several Hollywood studios and Netflix teamed up under the banner of the MPA to sue PrimeWire, one of the longest-standing pirate streaming sites. After a hearing early this month, the court has now handed down an injunction designed to render the site inaccessible within a matter of days.

While there are a handful of other contenders, PrimeWire is one of the most enduring pirate streaming portals on the internet today. In various forms, including under the 1channel branding, the site has been in operation for perhaps eight years.

In common with many similar sites, PrimeWire has had its fair share of anti-piracy problems over the years. Its domains are blocked by court order in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Portugal, and the site has been repeatedly branded a ‘notorious market’ by the MPA.

Lawsuit in the United States

Last November, the MPA and Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment obtained a DMCA subpoena from a US court that required Cloudflare to hand over whatever details it holds on the operator of PrimeWire.

Then, in early December, companies including Paramount, Universal, Warner, Columbia, Disney and Netflix filed a full-blown copyright infringement lawsuit against the alleged operators of the site including moderators Dev_Team, Silverrain, Fugitive, and drodman250.

In addition to demanding millions in damages, the studios requested a broad injunction to bring PrimeWire to its knees in advance of a full trial on the merits of the case.

Considerations for Preliminary Injunction

Following a hearing that took place January 3, 2022, last Friday Judge Mark C. Scarsi at the United States District Court for the Central District of California noted that while the defendants in the case have been served, none have made an appearance.

Summarizing the business models of the plaintiffs, the Judge acknowledged that the alleged behaviors of the defendants, which include the provision of links to infringing movies and TV shows hosted on third-party sites, do indeed infringe upon the rights of the studios.

“Plaintiffs did not authorize the digital reproduction and streaming of their copyrighted works. Thus, the streaming that occurs on PrimeWire or at websites to which PrimeWire links violates the Copyright Act,” Judge Scarsi writes.

“These violations are attributable to Defendants because under the doctrine of contributory infringement, a party is liable for copyright infringement if it materially contributes to infringement it knows another commits.”

The Judge further agreed that the PrimeWire defendants’ actions are willful since the platform solicits infringing reproductions and performances (links to movies, TV shows) in its forum. As a result, there is a “significant likelihood” that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit will succeed on the merits.

Weighing the Standards

With no one for PrimeWire participating in the action, the Judge weighed the request for an injunction against case law, agreeing that the plaintiffs had demonstrated to his satisfaction that they would suffer “irreparable harm” without an injunction.

The Judge also agreed that while an injunction could cause damage to PrimeWire, that should be weighed against the scale of the infringing behavior and the lack of appearance by the defendants. Also, since an injunction would help to prevent widespread copyright infringement, ordering one would be in the public interest.

Preliminary Injunction Granted

In line with the studios’ request, Judge Scarsi granted a preliminary injunction designed to prevent PrimeWire from continuing to infringe the plaintiffs’ rights.

It enjoins and restrains the PrimeWire defendants and anyone acting in concert with them from carrying out a number of actions, including linking to, distributing, reproducing, copying, hosting, uploading, and displaying the plaintiffs’ copyrighted works.

The defendants are further ordered to refrain from any action that enables, facilitates, assists, encourages or induces any user or third party to carry out any of the above.

In what appears any effort to take PrimeWire offline, the Judge says that no action may be taken by the defendants or their agents to transfer the domains primewire.li, primewire.ag or primewire.vc to any other registrant or registrar. Meanwhile, domain name registrars and registries API Gmbh, Gandi SAS, Namecheap, Inc., Nic AG, SWITCH, and Afilias, Inc., must freeze and disable the three PrimeWire domains.

If the PrimeWire defendants choose to make an appearance in the case, the Judge says that the preliminary injunction can be challenged, modified, or even dissolved but that currently seems unlikely. At the time of writing, all three domains remain active but that is likely to change in the days to come. PrimeWire does have other domains at its disposal though, so it may choose to deploy those in due course.

In a statement, the MPA welcomes the injunction.

“The Motion Picture Association applauds the court’s decision to enter a preliminary injunction against the operators of PrimeWire, a notorious foreign online piracy operation that operates anonymously with blatant and repeated disregard for the law. Filing civil actions against piracy operators is one of the many ways the MPA is actively engaged in protecting the legitimate market for creative content around the world,” the group says.

A copy of the preliminary injunction can be found here (pdf)