VPN provider bans BitTorrent after getting sued by film studios

“There are no logs.” TorGuard, a VPN provider, reached a legal settlement this month with more than two dozen movie studios, which had sued the company for encouraging piracy and copyright infringement. TorGuard has agreed to block BitTorrent traffic for its users as part of the settlement.

Over a dozen film studios sued TorGuard last year, alleging that the VPN provider kept no logs and prompted online piracy through its marketing initiatives.

The same group of complainants had previously sought $10 million in “damages” from LiquidVPN, another log-free VPN provider. According to court documents obtained by BleepingComputer, the film studios and VPNetworks, LLC d.b.a. TorGuard have reached an agreement in which the VPN provider will block torrents on its network.

After a legal battle, VPN.ht “settled” with the same plaintiffs in October 2021, agreeing to block BitTorrent and log traffic on its US servers. Last year, several other VPN providers, including Surfshark, VPN Unlimited, Zenmate, PIA, and ExpressVPN, were targeted in similar cases.

TorGuard had been leasing servers and IP addresses from hosting provider QuadraNet since June 2012, until late 2021, when the VPN provider notified QuadraNet that it was discontinuing the service. TorGuard used some of these servers to provide SOCKS5 proxy services to its customers. Customers could configure TorGuard’s proxy servers to work with existing BitTorrent clients using detailed instructions in the Knowedgebase (KB).

Unlike VPNs, traffic routed through SOCKS5 proxy servers is by default unencrypted, allowing intermediary hosting providers to gain visibility into network flows if they so desire.

According to studio records, 97,640 copyright infringement summons were sent to QuadraNet, affirming instances of piracy at the SOCKS5 IPs assigned to TorGuard. An additional 47,219 notices of confirmed piracy associated with other TorGuard IP addresses were received between November 2021 and November 2022.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys provided TorGuard with an Excel spreadsheet containing 250,000 “hit dates of confirmed infringement.” Approximately 40% of the instances of copyright infringement were associated with a single SOCKS5 IP address that had been provisioned to TorGuard.

In the hosting industry, it is common practise for a provider to “null route” a subscriber’s IP address, effectively discontinuing a network connection, if the provider has got numerous notices of copyright infringement linked with an IP address.

The same group of film studios sued QuadraNet in September 2021 for failing to null-route infringing VPN IPs. Fortunately, the plaintiff’s previous complaint focused on VPN (encrypted) traffic and made no mention of SOCKS5 proxies. As a result, the court had no choice but to dismiss the lawsuit and side with QuadraNet, which claimed it had no visibility into encrypted VPN traffic and was “never aware of the end users’ online activity” on its servers.