In November 2018, DISH Network filed a copyright complaint against Jadoo TV, a distributor of self-branded set-top IPTV boxes and later various software apps. DISH also sued Jadoo TV CEO, Sajid Sohail.
The complaint described Jadoo TV’s operation as a “wide-ranging, deliberate, multi-year effort” to distribute the plaintiffs’ exclusively-licensed TV channels without authorization. Alleging violations of 17 U.S.C. Section 501, DISH filed claims for direct, contributory, and vicarious infringement.
DISH took the position that Sohail could be held personally liable because he authorized, directed, or participated in Jadoo TV’s copyright-infringing activities.
In their answer filed in February 2019, Jadoo TV and Sohail denied the allegations, and in July 2020, DISH filed an amended complaint. A month later, Sohail filed his answer and a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
Jadoo TV’s CEO insisted that DISH could not hold him personally liable, but in September 2020, the court found that allegations in the amended complaint raised a “plausible inference” that Sohail “authorized, directed, or participated in the alleged infringement” so denied his motion to dismiss.
Motions for Summary Judgment
Four-and-a-half years after filing its original complaint, on March 13, 2023, DISH filed a motion for summary judgment. On the same day, Sohail also filed a motion for summary judgment. An order handed down this week by District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer granted DISH’s motion and denied Sohail’s.
In respect of direct infringement, the court found that there is “no genuine dispute that DISH owned the copyrighted material, that Defendants violated DISH’s exclusive right, that Defendants acted with volition, and that Sohail was personally liable as Jadoo’s director.”
On the contributory infringement front, Jadoo TV fared no better.
“There is no genuine dispute that Jadoo knew about the infringement and could have implemented several simple measures to prevent it,” the order finding in favor of DISH reads. “Accordingly, Jadoo materially contributed to the infringement, and thus is liable for contributory infringement.”
DISH’s claim for vicarious infringement, that Jadoo TV received a direct financial benefit from the infringement and declined to exercise a right and ability to control it, also went in the broadcaster’s favor.
“Defendants do not contest that the infringement provided some financial benefit, which is all that is needed to find Defendants liable for vicarious infringement,” the order reads, adding that “the only evidence offered — including evidence from Defendants’ expert —unequivocally demonstrates that Jadoo profited from the infringement.”
DISH Wins Summary Judgment
After granting DISH’s motion for summary judgment, the court ordered the parties to submit a joint filing on the subject of what relief the court should provide to DISH within 45 days. DISH says it is entitled to statutory damages, Jadoo’s profits, attorneys’ fees, and a permanent injunction.
If the maximum of $150,000 per work is accepted by the court, statutory damages could reach $14.5 million for the 97 works in suit, with damages or profits for works published outside the United States to go on top. The final amount is yet to be determined, but it seems there will be no escape for Sohail.
As a result of the DISH lawsuit, which was coordinated by the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP), Jadoo TV previously filed for bankruptcy, but after Sohail was found personally liable, options for recovery remain open.
“This ruling goes further than many other copyright cases coordinated by IBCAP. Here, the owner and CEO of one of the most popular South Asian services offering infringing content will not be permitted to hide behind a corporate shield and has been found personally liable for the damages caused by his and his company’s copyright infringement,” said Chris Kuelling, executive director of IBCAP.
“IBCAP and its members will not tolerate piracy, and the U.S. courts have once again not only sided with us by handing down a judgment against an infringing service, but also holding an owner personally accountable.”
The order granting summary judgment is available here (pdf)