Early July in a California court, Warner Bros., several Universal companies, Amazon, Columbia, Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Sony, and other content creators filed a lawsuit against Jason Tusa, the alleged operator of Altered Carbon, Area 51, and other pirate IPTV services.
According to the complaint, Tusa is a serial offender. Last year his Area 51 service was shut down following a cease-and-desist issued by the Alliance For Creativity and Entertainment (ACE). A pending settlement agreement included a clause that Tusa couldn’t launch or be involved with any similar services.
After the apparent demise of Area 51 but in advance of the settlement being finalized, it’s alleged that Tusa launched a close copy of Area 51 called SingularityMedia, which scooped up Area 51’s customers. In response, ACE contacted Tusa again and demanded that the new service was shut down. It later disappeared.
In October 2020, a confidential settlement was reached, which included a clause for Tusa not to create or be involved in any other similar services. However, it’s claimed that the defendant then launched Digital UniCorn Media and another service called Altered Carbon. It appears that at this point, ACE ran out of patience and responded with the current lawsuit.
Lawsuit Demands Millions in Damages and Injunctions
Listing around 110 copyright works, the coalition of Hollywood studios, with the addition of Amazon and Netflix, allege direct and willful copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, and inducing copyright infringement. They also allege a breach of contract in respect of the settlement agreement while demanding an injunction to restrain Tusa moving forward.
On July 8, the plaintiffs submitted a proposed preliminary injunction to the court, a copy of which was personally served on Tusa two days later. He was required to respond to that motion by July 19 but he failed to respond or seek an extension.
“Plaintiffs are not aware of a legitimate reason why Tusa would be unable to fulfill his obligations to this Court. Tusa was personally served with the Motion. He is familiar with Plaintiffs and their counsel from their history of negotiating a settlement,” the plaintiffs wrote in a July 26 notice to the court.
Judge Acknowledges Tusa’s Failure to Respond
In minutes dated July 28, United States District Court Judge Virginia A. Phillips references the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction, noting that Tusa had failed to oppose the motion by the official deadline.
On August 18, the Judge dealt with the matter based on papers filed in a timely fashion by the plaintiffs, granting the requested preliminary injunction. This means that moving forward, Tusa and other business entities will be required to comply with a set of instructions tailored to prevent further infringement.
Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction
Noting that a preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy”, the Court found that the movie studios have shown a likelihood of success in their action against Tusa, including their allegations of direct copyright infringement. The plaintiffs have also shown a need for emergency relief, with the Court finding that Tusa’s streaming platforms create financial losses to the plaintiffs and undermines their legitimate licenses.
“As Plaintiffs point out, Defendant’s activities also expand the market for infringing services, which causes further harm to Plaintiffs. This could lead to unquantifiable customer confusion and an overall diminution of value of the Copyrighted Works. Plaintiffs thus have demonstrated a likelihood of irreparable injury,” the Judge writes.
Finally, since Tusa has failed to respond to the lawsuit, the Judge further found that an injunction against Altered Carbon would be in the public interest.
“For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have satisfied their heavy burden of establishing they are entitled to the extraordinary remedy of a preliminary injunction.”
Terms of the Injunction
The injunction restrains and enjoins Tusa (and all individuals acting in concert with him) from directly or secondarily infringing any of the studio’s copyright works through any means including public performance, reproduction, and/or materially contributing to or inducing infringement.
In addition, the Court has ordered action against several of Tusa’s domains by requiring Internet Domain Service BS Corp., Hostinger International, and Hosting Concepts B.V (plus any others that receive notice of the injunction) to prevent any of them from being modified, sold, transferred to another owner or deleted.
The domains are as follows: alteredcarbon.online, 2pmtoforever.com, catchingbutterflies.host, stealingkisses.me, dum.world, and twoavocados.us
All WHOIS and similar contact information at the time of receipt of the order must remain unchanged and all domain names must stay with their current registrar. Changes to domain registration records must be prevented and all must be disabled to prevent public access. All evidence that may allow the plaintiffs to identify the persons using the domains must be preserved.
Since Tusa has failed to defend the lawsuit, the clerk of the court has also entered a default against him. This means that a costly default judgment is now likely but the scale of the damages is yet to be determined.
The injunction and associated documents can be found here 1,2,3, (pdf)