The Ulož.to platform, which allows uploading and downloading of films, documents and photos, may have to change its services significantly and keep a closer eye on what people upload to its repository. This was shown by the latest dispute with Ulož.to initiated by Prima TV. The Municipal Court in Prague ruled at the end of February that the platform, which is operated by petacloud, must not allow people to download the Zoo series produced for Prima by Good TV Production SE from its repository.

At the same time, Judge Filip Liška ordered petacloud to provide Prima with information about those who illegally uploaded episodes of the Zoo series to its repository, including their IP addresses and other data. “It has been proven that (Ulož.to) is committing unfair competition and infringing the plaintiff’s copyright to the series in question,” Liška said.

Ulož.to finds the court’s decision surprising and is going to appeal against it. “It is based on legislation that does not apply to Ulož.to,” believes Jan Karabina, the statutory executive of petacloud. According to him, the development of case law cannot be assessed based on non-final judgements. However, two years ago, the courts gave final judgements to ban Ulož.to from offering six films, including Pelíšky or Ostře sledované vlaky, for which Dilia holds the copyright.

Ulož.to’s business is based on providing space to store virtually anything. And anyone can download from it, either free of charge at slow speeds or fast for a fee. Experts estimate that petacloud collects hundreds of millions of crowns in fees for faster downloads. However, it is impossible to find out the exact figures because contrary to law, the company does not publish its financial statements and does not report on its performance.

Judge Liška justified the verdict on the basis of an amendment to the Copyright Act, which came into force at the beginning of this year. It provides much more protection for copyright in case of sharing over the internet and limits its abuse.

“It is a revolutionary change. The amendment says that as of January, Ulož.to cannot use the excuse that it is only an intermediary as it is a user,” explains lawyer Rudolf Leška. According to him, if a company wants to offer works for further download, it must ensure the protection of copyright.

“The amendment opens the door for authors and producers of works to bring an action against such swindlers more easily,” said another expert, František Vyskočil, representing Dilia, the collective copyright management agency. According to both, more and more copyright owners can now be expected to defend themselves against such sharing of their works. “I will be much more optimistic when clients ask me whether they should file an action,” confirms Leška.

Prima has already succeeded once, specifically in the case of the Duch series. But then it won by default because Ulož.to failed to appear in court. The court gave a default judgement and did not address the merits at all. “However, on appeal, the High Court upheld the enforceability of the judgement,” says Prima’s counsel Ludmila Kutějová. According to her, the Duch series should no longer be available for download on the Ulož.to website.

Prima filed the same action on the grounds of the illegal offering of the Slunečná series. The court has not yet heard the case. After the current success, Prima plans to continue and bring actions concerning other films and series. And in the next wave, it will also require both Ulož.to and the people who uploaded its works to the platform and thus enabled their illegal distribution to hand over the unjust enrichment. It therefore requires the platform to disclose the number of downloads or the IP addresses from where the episodes of their series were uploaded.

CinemArt has also taken the route of recovering unjust enrichment. According to its representative, Rudolf Leška, CinemArt is demanding approximately CZK 1 million for the film Šarlatán. This amount was calculated as lost profits as a result of the film, which was awarded several Czech Lions, being offered by Ulož.to for free download. “We will proceed like CinemArt and claim unjust enrichment,”  Kutějová confirmed.

Prima is not alone. TV Nova has also brought actions over its series Ulice or Ordinace v růžové zahradě. The court granted its motion in January this year and issued a preliminary ruling ordering the platform to prevent any downloading of the series. However, petacloud ignored the ruling according to Nova, which is why Nova turned to the enforcement agent. “Our enforcement motion was granted and the operator of Ulož.to was fined for not respecting the preliminary ruling,” said Zdeňka Zimová, a senior lawyer at Nova. However, Karabina said that they had appealed against the enforcement decision and were confident that they would succeed, just as they had reportedly succeeded in overturning other preliminary rulings.

Ulož.to is not the only platform where you can download films, TV series or audiobooks. However, the owners of copyrighted works do not have such disputes with them. “Ulož.to is the biggest, they are the most visible,” explains Leška.

It is also true that, for example, Hellspy and Hellshare entered into an agreement with Prima, Nova and Óčko last year to deploy automated filters to prevent pirate distribution of recordings and films. A month ago, Hellspy announced that it would cease operations because of the new law.