Key case law in the world of streaming media piracy
2020 Legal Update - The Protecting Lawful Streaming Act of 2020 made it a federal crime to willfully stream copyrighted content on the internet for commercial advantage or private financial gain. This provision has been interpreted by the courts in a number of different ways. In some cases, the courts have held that the phrase "commercial advantage" refers to any financial benefit, regardless of whether it is direct or indirect. In other cases, the courts have found that the phrase "private financial gain" includes any case where the content is streamed for personal use, such as viewing by family and friends. The case law on this issue is still developing, and it remains to be seen how the courts will ultimately interpret the language of the Act.
Introduction – The Tickbox case
Several Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (aka “ACE”) members sued a company called Tickbox TV, a company that was selling “fully-loaded” Kodi boxes which ACE refers to as a “piracy device.” Recently, the Plaintiffs (Universal City Studios Productions LLLP; Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; Disney Enterprises, Inc.; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Paramount Pictures Corporation; Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.; Amazon Content Services, LLC; Netflix Studios, LLC) were able to secure a preliminary injunction against the Defendant and I noticed it looked like their website has been taken down.
According to ACE:
“The updated preliminary injunction entered by Judge Michael Fitzgerald on February 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California orders TickBox to:
- Ensure its launcher software does not contain links to any “build,” “theme,” “app,” “add-on” or another software program that TickBox knows or has reason to know connects to pirated content.
- Update the TickBox launcher software to delete or disable any previously installed apps that link to pirated content.
- Remove all access points on the TickBox home screen that take users to menus to download software, apps, or add-ons that link to pirated content.”
This is obviously a huge initial win for ACE.
Netflix v. Dragon Media case
In another similar case filed in the Central District of California, Defendant Dragon Media was sued for copyright infringement by Netflix and Amazon, Columbia Disney, Paramount, Warner, Universal, and Twentieth Century Fox. Here are some sample allegations from the complaint filed by Munger, Tolles, and Olson and the MPAA:
“Plaintiffs or their affiliates produce and distribute some of the most popular and critically acclaimed motion pictures and television shows in the world. Plaintiffs or their affiliates have invested (and continue to invest) substantial resources and effort each year to develop, produce, distribute, and publicly perform their Copyrighted Works.
Plaintiffs or their affiliates own or have the exclusive U.S. rights (among others) to reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works, including by means of streaming those works over the Internet to the public.
Plaintiffs authorize the distribution and public performance of their Copyrighted Works in various formats and through multiple distribution channels, including, by way of example: (a) for exhibition in theaters;
(b) through cable and direct-to-home satellite services (including basic, premium, and “pay-per-view”);
(c) through authorized, licensed Internet video-on-demand services, including those operated by iTunes, Google Play, Hulu, VUDU, Netflix, Inc., and Amazon.com, Inc.;
(d) for private home viewing on DVDs and Blu-ray discs;
(e) for broadcast on television.
The complaint continued:
Plaintiffs have not authorized Defendants, the operators of the third party sites to which Dragon Box links, or Defendants' customers, to exercise any of Plaintiffs' exclusive rights under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106.
Defendants' Inducement of and Contribution to the Infringement of Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works The Dragon Box Experience 23. As advertised, Dragon Box is easy for customers to install and operate. Customers need only connect Dragon Box to the Internet and a screen (e.g., computer monitor or television) to operate. Defendants' marketing materials describe the “QUICK & EASY INSTALL!” and explain to customers that “all you need is an Internet connection and HDTV.”
Defendants market Dragon Box as a device that gives their customers direct access to “Free pay per view. Free movies are still in theaters in HD and 3D. Sports Packages, [and] Kids content.” Defendants boast that “All content is free”1 for Dragon Box customers.
The complaint goes on to discuss the Dragon Box:
“The Dragon Box device primarily utilizes two types of software programs. The first is a software media player called “Kodi.” Kodi is a third-party “open source” media player, meaning that it operates with many different programs and file formats. Kodi is recognized as the most popular media player for supporting the second type of software program Dragon Box relies on: “addons.” An addon is a software program that runs in conjunction with an underlying software program (like Kodi) to provide functionality over and above the functionality that the underlying software provides The Dragon Box device allows Defendants' customers to access “unlimited” “free” content through the use of the “Dragon Media” software application. The Dragon Media application provides Defendants' customers with a customized configuration of the Kodi media player and a curated selection of the most popular add-ons for accessing infringing content. These add-ons are designed and maintained for the overarching purpose of scouring the Internet for illegal sources of copyrighted content and returning links to that content. When Dragon Box customers click those links, those customers receive unauthorized streams of popular motion pictures and television shows.”
The complaint goes on to allege causes of action for:
- (Intentionally Inducing the Infringement of Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works, 17 U.S.C. § 106), and
- (Contributory Copyright Infringement by Knowingly and Materially Contributing to the Infringement of Plaintiffs' Copyrighted Works, 17 U.S.C. § 106).
More Streaming Media & Legal Resources
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) offered a seminar entitled ‘Unboxing the Piracy Threat of Streaming Media Boxes.'
Contact a Streaming Piracy Lawyer
We can help both Plaintiff's and Defendants in illegal download, torrent, streaming media and traditional copyright infringement cases. Call (877) 276-5084.