In Russia, a lawsuit against the Twitch streaming platform has been filed by Rambler Group, a large local media holding company. Rambler demands roughly €2.5 billion from Twitch for an alleged violation of exclusive content rights belonging to Rambler. Curiously, sources say, the rights were purchased by Rambler itself for €7 million.
The Moscow City Court website lists a lawsuit against Twitch Interactive filed by Rambler Group. It was registered on August 26 with the next hearing scheduled for December 20.
Russian newspaper Kommersant was first to notice the lawsuit. Rambler brought forward the legal action claiming copyright infringement. Rambler Group owns the rights to distribute the matches of the English Premier League in Russia for three seasons starting 2019/20. The games are streamed at Okko Sport, an online streaming service owned by Rambler Group. Sources told Kommersant that the deal between Rambler and the Premier League had cost €7 million.
Julianna Tabastajewa, representing Twitch in court, told Kommersant that Rambler is seeking damages of 180.345 billion rubles (roughly €2.5 billion or $2.84 billion). Initially Rambler asked the court to ban Twitch in the country, then demanded the compensation of €2.1 mil, with the final sum stated during the hearings of November 29.
Sources told Kommersant that the sum is simply the total of viewers (36.000, as seen on screenshots taken by Rambler) multiplied by a max possible fine (5 million rubles).
Mikhail Gershkovich, the manager of sports projects at Rambler, stated that the sum is considerable, but that the court may change the amount awarded. Gershkovich believes that Twitch has infringed on Rambler’s IP rights multiple times.
Tabastajewa, in turn, stated that Twitch, according to the laws of Russia, is merely an “information mediator” since it doesn’t upload its own content but rather lets its users publish it. Furthermore, Twitch cannot change the content its users upload but, Tabastajewa noted, Twitch responded swiftly by removing such content when the company received Rambler’s screenshots of the streams. She also emphasized that the screenshots aren’t even dated properly, and that Rambler has never sent an official notice to Twitch.
According to SimilarWeb, Russia is 4th on Twitch in terms of traffic with 6% — just behind South Korea (6.3%) and Germany (7.15%). Considering the amount of viewers, the fact that this isn’t the first time Twitch faces lawsuits in Russia doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Only this July, Twitch settled a different lawsuit with the Kontinental Hockey League, the 24-team sports league mainly popular in Russia. As a result of the settlement agreement, Twitch removed three accounts that illegally streamed content owned by KHL.
The blocking of global video platforms in Russia is not something entirely new, too. In December 2016, Moscow City Court banned Dailymotion over the copyright infringement of a reality show owned by the Pyatnitsa! TV-channel. Since January 2017, the website has been unavailable in the country.