Court Orders Tickbox to Keep Pirate Streaming Addons Out

A group of major Hollywood studios plus Amazon and Netflix have won a preliminary injunction against TickBox TV, a Kodi-powered streaming device. The device seller is ordered to keep pirate addons out of its box and halt all piracy-inducing advertisements. In addition, both parties are instructed to resolve several outstanding questions and update the injunction accordingly.

Kodi-powered set-top boxes are a great way to to stream video content to a TV, but sellers who ship these devices with unauthorized add-ons give them a bad reputation.

According to the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), an anti-piracy partnership comprised of Hollywood studios, Netflix, Amazon, and more than two dozen other companies, Tickbox TV is one of these bad actors.

Last year, ACE filed a lawsuit against the Georgia-based company, which sells Kodi-powered set-top boxes that stream a variety of popular media.

According to ACE, these devices are nothing more than pirate tools, allowing buyers to stream copyright-infringing content and being advertised as such. The coalition, therefore, asked the court for an injunction to prevent Tickbox from facilitating copyright infringement by removing all pirate add-ons from previously sold devices.

This week US District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald issued a preliminary injunction, which largely sides with the movie companies. According to the Judge, there is sufficient reason to believe that Tickbox can be held liable for inducing copyright infringement.

One of the claims is that Tickbox promoted its service for piracy purposes, and according to the Judge the movie companies provided enough evidence to make this likely. This includes various advertising messages the box seller used.

“There is ample evidence that, at least prior to Plaintiffs’commencement of this action, TickBox explicitly advertised the Device as a means to accessing unauthorized versions of copyrighted audiovisual content,” Judge Fitzgerald writes.

In its defense, Tickbox argued that it merely offered a computer which users can then configure to their liking. However, the Judge points out that the company went further, as it actively directed its users to install certain themes (builds) to watch movies, TV and sports.

“Thus, the fact that the Device is just a ‘computer’ that can be used for infringing and noninfringing purposes does not insulate TickBox from liability if [..] the Device is actually used for infringing purposes and TickBox encourages such use.”

Taking these and several other factors into account, the Court ruled that a preliminary injunction is warranted at this stage. After the lawsuit was filed, Tickbox already voluntarily removed much of the inducing advertisements and addons, and this will remain so.

The preliminary injunction compels TickBox to the current version of the user interface, without easy access to pirate add-ons. The devices should no longer contain links to any of the themes and addons that the movie companies have flagged as copyright infringing.

Tickbox had argued that a broad injunction could shut down its business, but the court counters this. Customers will still be able to use the box for legitimate purposes. If they are no longer interested it suggests that piracy was the main draw.

“[A]n injunction of this scope will not ‘shut down Defendant’s business’ as TickBox contends. In the event that such an injunction does shut TickBox down, that will be indicative not of an unjustifiably burdensome injunction, but of a nonviable business model,” Judge Fitzgerald writes.

The preliminary injunction is not final yet as there are several questions still unanswered.

It’s unclear, for example, if and how Tickbox should remove addons from previously sold devices. The Court, therefore, instructs both parties to attempt to reach agreement on these outstanding issues, to include them in an updated injunction.

The above findings are preliminary and apply specifically to the injunction request and the case itself will continue. However, the Court’s early opinion suggests that Tickbox has plenty of work ahead to prove its innocence.

A copy of the preliminary injunction is available here (pdf), and Judge Fitzgerald’s findings can be found here (pdf).

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