Users of this VPN service may be sued for copyright infringement

Watching a downloaded movie on a laptop
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Seventeen unnamed Americans face a copyright infringement lawsuit from the producers of the movie Angel Has Fallen over allegations that they illegally downloaded the film.

Fourteen of these individuals have been accused of using best VPN contender Private Internet Access to watch the movie illegally and were issued with DMCA notices, according to a report by Torrent Freak.

Subpoenas may be issued

Fallen Productions, which created the movie, is looking to have the alleged pirates subpoenaed after filing a lawsuit in U.S. federal court in Colorado. 

The court filing says: “Upon information and belief, Defendants DOES 3-5, 7-10 and 12-17 registered for paid accounts for Virtual Private Network (‘VPN’) service with the Colorado Internet Service Provider Private Internet Access.”

At the moment, it is not known who the accused individuals are. But Kerry Culpepper, the lawyer representing Fallen Productions, believes that subpoenas will help to reveal their identities.

Unmasking the accused

While the fact that the individuals used a no-log VPN service should help to shield their identities and potentially make the court case more difficult, the legal team pursuing the case has access to the individuals' email and IP addresses via torrenting website YTS.

The lawsuit is heavily reliant on the information from YTS, but Culpepper has asked for the court to issue subpoenas against Private Internet Access, internet service providers and email services in a hope that this will shed more light on the identities of the accused. 

If this request is granted and Private Internet Access is subpoenaed, the VPN provider may be unable to provide any incriminating evidence as its policy is to refrain from tracking the internet traffic and data of its users.

A spokesperson for the VPN company told Torrent Freak: “Private Internet Access has not received a subpoena in regards to this case. Even if we do, our response will be the same as always: PIA does not log VPN user activity”.

Can the movie industry stop torrenters?

Jake Moore, a security specialist at ESET, told Tom's Guide that the case highlights the various steps that the movie industry is taking to stop people from downloading their content at no cost. 

But he admits that the case will be challenging.

"Those who illegally use such torrent services are usually well clued up on how to evade capture with the correct use of VPNs," Moore explained.

"This lawsuit shines a light on what remnants of data can still be accessed when law enforcement have their hands on a VPN company, but ultimately this is likely to only catch the low-hanging fruit who are unaware of these extra privacy-focused tactics and make errors such as using their personal email for sign up.

"However, as will become apparent, this still won’t be enough to pin on anyone downloading specific torrents without a digital forensic search of the target hard drives where the data has supposedly been copied to.”

Nicholas Fearn is a freelance technology journalist and copywriter from the Welsh valleys. His work has appeared in publications such as the FT, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph, The Next Web, T3, Android Central, Computer Weekly, and many others. He also happens to be a diehard Mariah Carey fan!