IPTV Pirates Must Pay ACE $181k But More Evidence Needed For Damages

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The operator of pirate IPTV service Nitro TV was recently ordered to pay $100m in damages to DISH and a second lawsuit, brought by members of ACE, is set to cause additional financial pain. This week a judge handed down an order requiring Nitro's operator to pay $181k in costs and legal fees, but also informed the plaintiffs they need to provide more evidence of infringement.

IPTVIn August 2021, US broadcaster DISH Network, Sling and NagraStar sued pirate IPTV service Nitro TV.

The case focused on Nitro operator Alex Galindo and other members of his family, alleging mass violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions and the Federal Communications Act (FCA). The case went undefended and this June came to a close, with the plaintiffs being awarded over $100m in statutory damages.

Since that judgment was handed down the docket has been kept busy with sealed documents. From the available information, it seems that the plaintiffs are attempting to garnish property owned by one or more of the Galindos. While the process won’t be pretty it’s perhaps necessary given that other people are also queuing up to get paid.

ACE Copyright Infringment Lawsuit

A coalition of entertainment companies headed up by Universal, Paramount, Columbia, Disney and Amazon filed their complaint against Nitro in 2020 but for a number of reasons the case is still open after more than two years.

In contrast to the DISH lawsuit, Alex Galindo did mount some kind of defense here, and at one point even tried to have the whole thing dismissed. Perhaps the $7m processed through the Galindo’s accounts is a motivating factor but the studios seem determined to prevail against the defendants, who now find themselves without an attorney.

Clock Ticks, Costs Mount, Galindo Must Pay

According to the studios, the defendants have been uncooperative at best, deliberately obstructive at worst. Allegations of evidence destruction and other misconduct led to a motion for sanctions, followed by a recent report from a judge to the district judge recommending a finding that Alex Galindo willfully violated court orders, failed to cooperate in discovery, and should be held liable for infringement.

Meanwhile, the studios have continued to run up huge legal and administrative bills. Attorney’s fees and costs associated with their discovery motion alone reached $88,080, while those for the plaintiffs’ sanctions motion topped out at $93,000. United States District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong conducted a review but found nothing to contradict the recently submitted report.

“Galindo’s assertions and arguments have been reviewed carefully. The Court, however, concludes that nothing set forth in Galindo’s Response or otherwise in the record for this case affects or alters, or calls into question, the findings and analysis set forth in the Report,” Judge Frimpong’s order reads.

With the court accepting the findings and recommendations in the report, Alex Galindo now has just 60 days to pay $88,080 in attorneys’ fees and costs associated with the plaintiffs’ discovery motion, plus $93,000 in fees and costs associated with their sanctions motion, to a total of $181,080.

That may seem like a small amount when compared to the $100m already owed to DISH, but the studios are nowhere near finished.

Plaintiffs Seek Default Judgment, Judge Wants to See Evidence

The parties in the case have rarely been in agreement but one point of contention has now been resurrected by the Judge. The defense previously noted that if the studios had clarified the full nature and extent of infringement at Nitro, the case would’ve gone to a default judgment a long time ago. The Judge now says that the court will need to see more information to move on.

Judge Frimpong raises the possibility of a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs but notes that would not automatically entitle the plaintiffs to the damages requested. Noting that the court has “considerable leeway” to determine what information it requires before an entry of default, the Judge says the plaintiffs need to submit evidence in greater detail.

“In this case, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have neither provided a complete enumeration of the copyrighted works at issue, a full accounting of the corresponding amount of statutory damages sought pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 504(c)(2), nor evidence to support either of the above. In the absence of these items, the Court declines to enter Judgment at this time,” the Judge notes.

Columbia Pictures, Amazon Content Services, Disney Enterprises, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Studios Productions, Universal Television, and Universal Content Productions, now have 60 days to file a brief identifying every movie and TV show for which they are seeking damages, along with relevant evidence.

The studios must also identify the factors the court should consider when calculating statutory damages. The studios previously submitted a list of copyright works to the court (pdf) but that was over two years ago.

Judge Frimpong’s order can be found here (pdf)


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