Alleged SmoothStreams IPTV Operators Accused of Contempt of Court

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After years in operation, Canada-based IPTV provider SmoothStreams was shut down in July by Bell Media, Rogers, and members of MPA-Canada. An interim order was obtained to keep the service down and, among other things, compel its alleged operators to reveal who else was involved in the operation. Both stand accused of contempt of court for alleged non-compliance.

dark manWhen SmoothStreams disappeared offline mid-July, subscribers to the service went through the usual cycle of assumptions. From temporary technical problems to a full-blown law enforcement raid, no one seemed to know anything for sure.

Over the next two weeks, a picture began to emerge. SmoothStreams had been raided but not as part of any criminal action. A month earlier, Bell Media, Rogers Media, Disney, Paramount, Columbia, and Warner Bros. had filed a copyright infringement complaint at Canada’s Federal Court.

They allege that Marshall Macciacchera and Antonio Macciacchera (son and father respectively) are the owners and operators of SmoothStreams.tv and several additional platforms, including live247.tv, StreamTVNow.tv and StarStreams.tv. According to the plaintiffs, these platforms enabled subscribers to access large volumes of live TV channels and movies, in violation of their rights.

Injunction and Anton Piller Order

In addition to an injunction, the plaintiffs obtained an Anton Piller order, a type of court authorization that allowed them to search premises linked to the defendants and seize evidence. They executed that on July 14 in three locations, reportedly seizing dozens of TV receivers and encoders, plus a number of servers believed to have been used for capturing and redistributing streams.

Anton Piller orders grant extraordinary powers to those who obtain them but cooperation from defendants isn’t guaranteed, even when supported by an interim order issued by the Federal Court. After being presented with the documents, Antonio refused to read them, declined his consent for the order’s execution, and eventually faced a contempt of court hearing. The outcome of that is yet to be announced.

Demands for Disclosure of Information

According to court records, Marshall’s compliance didn’t match the plaintiffs’ expectations either. The interim order required him to disclose SmoothStreams-related technical information including the source of about fifty unauthorized streams that remained online after the raids took place. It also compelled him to disclose the login credentials for his home computer so that evidence could be preserved.

Marshall was also ordered to reveal information about other people involved in the SmoothStreams operation who hadn’t already been targeted. An unknown third party gained access to the SmoothStreams system during the execution of the order and the plaintiffs want to include them in the action. The plaintiffs are not satisfied with the defendant’s responses thus far so, as things stand, Marshall also faces a contempt of court hearing, but not anytime soon.

The Wheels of Justice Turn Slowly

A court entry dated September 1, 2022, instructed the parties to discuss the specific grounds for Marshall’s alleged contempt of court. A case management meeting on September 29 heard that the plaintiffs had sent “all of the relevant documents” to the defense.

They are yet to be reviewed but the plaintiffs were reminded that there needs to be full disclosure of any evidence that has the potential to clear Marshall of alleged wrongdoing. The plaintiffs agreed to conduct a review and hand over any additional material by October 14, 2022.

Finally, Court entries reveal that Marshall may call the plaintiffs and their lawyers as witnesses. Beyond that it’s believed he will seek to disqualify Smart and Biggar, Canada’s leading IP law firm, from acting against him once the matter of contempt is concluded. The Court set a deadline of October 14 for him to do so.

A virtual case management conference booked for October 25 will discuss the scheduling of the contempt hearing. Lawyers were advised to have access to their agendas because that may not take place until March 2023. When the full case will be heard on the merits is currently unknown.

Image Credit: MichiT/Pixabay

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