Record labels filed a copyright infringement suit against the operator of two popular “stream ripping” sites based out of Russia. The labels allege the sites “quickly and seamlessly capture the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube” that users access, “convert those audio tracks to an MP3”, “copy and store the audio files”, “and then distribute copies of those files from their servers to users in the United States”–all without authorization from the copyright owners (and in violation of YouTube’s own terms of service). Labels allege this conduct amounts to direct and indirect infringement.
A district court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the sites “are semi-interactive, the interactions with the users are non-commercial, and there were no other acts by the Defendant that would demonstrate purposeful targeting” of the forum specifically or the United States generally.
The record labels appealed that decision to the Fourth Circuit, arguing that the district court erred because the sites had a large U.S. customer base that it purposefully targeted and profited from, and it had multiple and sustained contacts with both the forum and the U.S.
In June 2020, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction. The opinion finds that “Kurbanov’s contacts sufficiently show he purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in Virginia” and that “Appellants’ copyright infringement claims arise out of Kurbanov’s activities directed at Virginia.”