DISH & Sling Sue Pirate Sites For Circumventing Sports Stream DRM

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DISH Network and Sling TV have filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against four unlicensed sports streaming sites including the popular SportsBay.org. According to the companies, the platforms offer illegal access to sports programming by bypassing Sling's technical protection measures in violation of the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.

lockIn the United States, broadcaster DISH Network has filed dozens of lawsuits targeting the operators of numerous streaming platforms, usually based on relatively straightforward violations of either the Copyright Act or the Federal Communications Act.

A new lawsuit filed this month based on the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA addresses the same problem from an interesting angle.

Lawsuit Targets Four ‘SportsBay’ Sites

Filed in a Texas court, the lawsuit lists DISH Network and subsidiary Sling TV as plaintiffs. It targets four Doe defendants doing business as SportsBay.org, SportsBay.tv, Live-NBA.stream, and Freefeds.com. The SportsBay domains currently link to the same web platform, which features artwork culled from the infamous Pirate Bay, although there appears to be no link to that site, branding aside.

SportsBay

All of the domains (collectively the ‘SportsBay’ sites) appear to be in the business of offering sports broadcasts including the Olympics, NBA matches, NFL games, cricket and motorsports. SportsBay.org appears to be the most popular with an estimated 9.35m visitors per month.

“Defendants operate an illicit streaming service through the Sportsbay Websites, whereby Defendants offer Sportsbay users free access to Sling’s internet transmissions of television programming by providing the means to decrypt and acquire it without authorization,” the complaint reads.

DRM Technologies Protect Sling’s Platform

According to the lawsuit, Sling’s programming is protected by various types of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies including Widevine, Fairplay, and PlayReady.

“Each DRM has a key-based encryption and decryption process used to make Sling Programming accessible to only authorized Sling subscribers that purchased access to that Sling Programming and restricts unauthorized access to, copying, and retransmission of Sling Programming,” the companies note.

However, it’s alleged that the operators of the SportsBay sites are able to circumvent the DRM technologies deployed by Sling in order to provide their users with Sling programming, from the company’s servers, for free. The offer includes the channels listed below.

sportsbay channels

The complaint alleges that when a channel is selected on either of the SportsBay domains, the sites connect to the Feedfeds.com site and embed content from there in an iFrame. That iFrame then accesses programming from an official Sling server located at Movetv.com and delivers it to the iFrame.

“The Freefeds.com iframe then connects to Defendants’ Live-nba.stream computer server in order to obtain the DRM keys necessary to decrypt the Sling Programming so that it is displayed on the Sportsbay.org and Sportsbay.tv websites,” the companies add.

Anti-Circumvention Provisions of the DMCA

DISH and Sling say that the SportsBay sites obtain the DRM keys necessary to decrypt Sling programming without permission. As a result they commit offenses under the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.

“Defendants willfully violated 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(A) for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain. Defendants knew or should have known that their actions are illegal and prohibited,” the complaint notes.

In addition, DISH and Sling allege that the defendants have “manufactured, imported, offered to the public, provided, and otherwise trafficked in technologies and services” in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(2).

This section relates to technologies that are primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure controlling access to a copyrighted work and have only limited commercially significant purpose other than to circumvent a technological measure.

Demands For Relief

DISH and Sling are asking the court for a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from circumventing any DRM technology protecting Sling programming and offering the same to the public.

They also want the court to issue an order that enables the takeover of the SportsBay domains plus statutory damages of up to $2,500 for each violation of 17 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a)(1)(A) and 1201(a)(2).

Given that the plaintiffs say that the defendants are liable for these violations for each user of their sites, damages could easily hit tens of millions of dollars, even if just one month of traffic is considered.

The DISH and Sling lawsuit can be found here (pdf)

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