FLVTO.biz Pushes Back Against Data-Disclosure Order in Lawsuit with Major Labels

Photo Credit: David Veksler

Last month, a U.S. judge ordered YouTube stream-ripping sites FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com to compile and turn over data logs as part of their long-running legal battle with the major labels. Now, the Russia-based platforms and their owner, Tofig Kurbanov, have officially pushed back against the order.

The underlying courtroom confrontation kicked off back in 2018, when the major labels, in one of several efforts to curb the prevalence of stream-ripping websites (and “fake stream” providers), filed a lawsuit against FLVTO.biz, 2conv.com, and Kurbanov. Though many anticipated a prompt victory for the plaintiffs, a court dismissed the action after determining that it lacked jurisdiction over the defendants.

An appellate court ultimately overturned this ruling, however, and the defendants have continued to fight the case – including by demanding that the plaintiffs pursue the action in Russian courts – in the interim. As initially mentioned, June of 2021 brought with it an order for FLVTO.biz and 2conv.com to compile and turn over visitors’ data logs, including users’ IP addresses, the URLs of videos inputted into the ripping services, and more.

But the defendants have formally objected to the order and asked that it “be set aside,” emphasizing at the outset of a 22-page-long memorandum in support of their objections that Kurbanov, in complying, would “be required to alter the operation of the websites’ servers (which are located in Germany) in order to create records that he has never before created, maintained, or stored.”

Kurbanov hasn’t deleted the specified information, the text proceeds, but would have to take multiple far-reaching steps to capture it “for the first time.” Elaborating upon the claim, Kurbanov notes that configuring his platforms’ Germany-based servers to store access logs “would require the use of significant hard drive space,” to the tune of “about 2.7 terabytes of storage each month” solely for the inputted URLs (as well as thousands in related data-storage fees).

Moreover, the document states that “saving such URL information would cause the Websites to run more slowly” and reiterates that “Mr. Kurbanov has not, at any time… created or stored this URL information.”

Regarding the stream-ripping services’ users, Kurbanov “values the privacy of” visitors and believes that storing access logs and/or URL data “could jeopardize” their personal information, besides creating “a host of legal concerns and liabilities in the 200+ countries” from which the platforms are accessed. On this front, the filing also discloses that between October of 2017 and the end of September of 2018, 5.87 percent of 2conv.com users were from the U.S., against 9.92 percent of FLVTO.biz users.

Similarly, if the access logs and URLs were stored, “Russian authorities might have the right to seize and inspect the” platforms’ records. “This fear is well-justified as, in July of 2018, Russia enacted new laws relating to internet data that could indeed require Mr. Kurbanov to provide Russian authorities with stored data concerning Russian individuals, particularly those that might be identifiable by IP address,” the document indicates.

Likewise, complying with the judge’s order “would likely violate the laws of Germany,” where the servers are located, once again. Bearing all these points in mind, Kurbanov must choose between complying with the court’s order, “which would require him to violate the laws of other countries and/or put” users at risk, or defying the order “and risk a finding of contempt,” the filing claims.

“It is not a position that this Court should force upon a foreign individual who has to contend with the ramifications of such data collection in other countries,” the defendants specify in closing.

Lastly, while Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure “generally” requires parties to produce relevant items in their “possession, custody, or control,” per the filing, “courts have routinely held that this production requirement does not extend to the creation of documents which do not otherwise exist.”