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Argentina: Justice System Orders Blockage of Series and Film Site Cuevana.tv

[All links lead to Spanish language pages except when otherwise noted]

Few Argentinian websites have achieved as much success as Cuevana. A project that was begun as a hobby amongst friends has become one of the most visited websites in the entirety of Latin America, which provides 90% of its web traffic. Cuevana offers a catalogue of TV series and films to be watched easily online, without the need to download archives. It also allows the selection of different subtitles and audio options, if and when available.

Cuevana.tv

The 22-year-old San Juan native, Tomas Escobar, is one of the three young people that devised Cuevana, and is currently the only owner of the site. One month ago, in an interview with ALT140, Escobar explained that he “does not wish to work against the film industry”:

Cuevana no comete ninguna actividad que la ley especifique como ilícita. […] queremos llegar a un acuerdo con las productoras, distribuidoras y dueños de contenido para generar un nuevo modelo de negocios que beneficie a todas las partes, incluyendo el usuario. Por eso estamos en conversaciones para armar esto. Estamos trabajando para llegar a acuerdos con la industria, no queremos en ir contra de la misma.

Cuevana does not commit any activity that the law specifies as illegal. [...] we want to reach an agreement with the producers, distributors and content owners in order to generate a new business model that would benefit all parties, including users. As a result, we are in talks to make this happen. We are working to reach an agreement with the industry and we don't want to work against it.

Today Cuevana is ranked as the 23rd most visited website in Argentina, according to an Alexa [en] rankings. But the large popularity that the site has been receiving also means that, recently, it has been presented with the first lawsuits from the organisations that own the copyrights to content reproduced on Cuevana: Turner Argentina and HBO.

As the Argentinian newspaper La Nación reported, on November 29, 2011, Argentina's justice system ordered that they “proceed in blocking users’ access to Cuevana for the programmes Falling Skies, BRIC and 26 personas para salvar al mundo“.

A short time ago, Thursday, November 17, Cuevana was also warned by Telefé, a traditional Argentinian television channel, that it was going to sue for a violation of author rights. However, a few days later the spokesperson for Telefé explained in an interview with La Nación that:

Telefé no tiene una cruzada contra Cuevana, y no hay ninguna demanda presentada. Sí se está debatiendo en el seno de su directorio y dentro de las asociaciones de productoras y distribuidoras la actitud por seguir con este tipo de ilegalidades.

Telefé has no crusade against Cuevana and no lawsuit has been brought. Indeed, the attitude to take towards this kind of illegal activity is being debated among its board of directors and the production and distribution associations.

Telefé took a u-turn and decided not to sue the Argentinian site, although this does not seem to be the case for HBO and Turner Argentina, owners of the I-Sat channel.

Telecentro was the first and, until now, the only Internet Service Provider (ISP) to block the site as the Argentinian justice system ordered. However, a few hours and many user tweets later, the measure was finally lifted. As the site commented via its Twitter account:

Parecería que Telecentro escuchó a los usuarios y dio marcha atrás al bloqueo a Cuevana.

It seems that Telecentro listened to the users and has backtracked on blocking Cuevana.

In view of each of these announcements, the users have been protesting on social networking sites, posting messages of support for the site with hashtags like #CensuranACuevana (Cuevana is censored) and #FuerzaCuevana (Strength to Cuevana). On the other hand, there are those who do not sympathise with the site. The user Yamil Salinas (@yamilsalinas) posted (12) on Twitter:

Sinceramente, no entiendo todo el hype sobre Cuevana. Me parece completamente overrated y además, señores, CENSURA es otra cosa. Get a life.

Seriously, I don't understand the hype about Cuevana. It seems completely overrated and also, CENSORSHIP is another thing. Get a life.

¿Creaste nuevo algoritmo d compresión de video? No. ¿Das empleo? No. ¿Lucrás con contenido de otros? Sí. Y encima te llaman “innovador” :O

Did you create a new video compression algorithm? Can you give an example? No. Do you profit from other people's content? Yes. And they call you “innovative” :O

Meanwhile, in the blog Derecho a Leer, a computer graphic has been published which explains why Cuevana is not breaking any laws:

Computer graphic created by DerechoALeer.org. blog which explains that Cuevana's server is in Canada and it administers the texts, images, comments, reviews, rankings and databases for cuevana.tv. It shows also that Megaupload's server is located in Virginia and it hosts the videos uploaded by its own users. The image goes on to explain that Megaupload offers free video downloads and streams that can also be embedded into other sites. The image also clarifies what a Megaupload user is: it is someone who uploads a digital copy of a video by using their Megaupload account.

[…] las películas y series que aparecen en Cuevana, están alojadas en otros sitios de descarga directa, pero no en sus propios servidores. Cuevana es sólo un catálogo de referencias y valor agregado (comentarios, críticas, puntuación). Que todo se vea en una misma pantalla junto con la película, no implica un punto de emisión común.

[...] the films and series that appear on Cuevana are located on other direct download sites, but not on their own servers. Cuevana is only a catalogue  for reference and  value-adding features (comments, critiques, rankings). That everything is seen on the same screen with the film does not imply a shared broadcasting point.

Eduardo Arcos, the founder of the blog network Hipertextual, has published, in light of the Turner Argentina and HBO lawsuit, a criticism of Cuevana focusing mainly on the way in which the site generates economic income:

Cuevana es una web de un chico que decidió hacer stream de películas y series de televisión en un solo sitio usando a YouTube, Dailymotion Megaupload, BitShare, o Filefactory como fuente, capitalizando, por medio de publicidad, todo el tráfico de millones de personas con ganas de ver series y películas. Da igual de dónde sale el contenido, da igual cuál es la fuente del video, si haces dinero con el trabajo de otras personas, eres un pirata.

Cuevana is the website of a boy who decided to stream films and TV series on a single site using Youtube, Dailymotion Megaupload, BitShare or Filefactory as sources, capitalising, because of publicity, on the traffic of all the millions of people who want to watch series and films. It does not matter where the content comes from, nor does it matter the source of the video. If you're making money from the work of others, you are a pirate.

Finally, last Sunday, Ventana Sur hosted a debate about “the new legal barriers regarding the free circulation of information” in which Julio Raffo, in defence of the sites Cuevana and Taringa, and Rosario Millé, representing the Turner channel, participated. The debate was moderated by Beatriz Busaniche of Fundación Vía Libre:

As explained in the above video by the Partido Pirata Argentino:

La iniciativa [de Raffo] se puede explicar brevemente: la idea es promover una reforma a la Ley de Derechos de Autor en la que se reconozca el derecho de libre acceso a obras culturales a través de Internet para usos no lucrativos. Todo ello, por supuesto, motivado a raíz de las denuncias en contra de los sitios Taringa y Cuevana.

The initiative [of Raffo] can be briefly explained: the idea is to promote a reform of the copyright law which should recognise the right to free access to cultural works though the Internet for non-lucrative use. All of that, of course, is caused by the accusations against Taringa and Cuevana.

For the time being, Cuevana continues working properly and it does not appear to have been blocked by any Argentinian ISP. The online community, on the other hand, finds itself divided into those who support Cuevana and its creator, Tomas Escobar, alleging that the site's activity is not, nor must it be considered illegal, and on the other side there are those who continue demanding an alternative; that it be 100% legal and that it offers a decent catalogue in order to be able to use cultural content online.

  • http://entremedios.org Francisco

    Yesterday the “Union Argentina de Videoeditores” started another lawsuit against Cuevana. That case is a criminal lawsuit and not a civil one like the one started by Turner. The Union, that represents CD and DVDs publishers and distributors also asked the Judge to order the complete blockade of Cuevana as an Injuction. In the following days the Judge will decide if he grants the injuction
    I also wrote about Cuevana in my blog. In the comments there is a link to this new case. You can read it in http://www.entremedios.org.

    • Silvia Viñas

      Thank you Francisco!

  • Pingback: Latin American Sites and Bloggers Protest PIPA and SOPA · Global Voices

  • http://cuevana.tv chris hills

    I think the Argentina’s are terrible for doing this is ridiculous that is happening the guy was a genius for coming up with the site and getting it all together. People who use Cuevana love the site and use the site so much. i myself was a user of Cuevana and i just wanted to say that this just unbelievable dumb and stupid to penalize this guy and that people should file a complaint against the Argentinean government and get the site put back up

    • http://cuevana Charlie D

      hello Chris. I see you use cuevana as well. Do you know if it has been blocked for good? all I get lately is “403 forbidden” message when I try to log in.

  • Pingback: Artículo sobre Cuevana, para Global Voices | Todavía sirve

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