This April, companies owned by Columbia, Amazon, Disney, Paramount, Warner, and Universal, sued ‘pirate’ IPTV service Nitro TV.
Filed in a California district court, the lawsuit accuses Alejandro Galindo, the supposed operator of Nitro TV, plus an additional 20 ‘Doe’ defendants, of massive copyright infringement.
While clearly referencing the service’s provision of live unlicensed TV channels, the suit focuses on Nitro’s VOD offering. i.e on-demand movies and TV shows plus the now-common 24/7 channels which continuously loop popular TV shows.
The lawsuit, potentially worth multiple millions in damages, quickly progressed and in May the entertainment companies obtained a preliminary court injunction to shut Nitro TV down. Since then the case has progressed, but not in the direction the plaintiffs might have hoped.
Galindo “Destroyed and Hid Evidence” During Discovery Process
In a motion filed this week, the plaintiffs – which form part of the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment – slam Galindo for his failure to cooperate with the discovery process, including hiding and destroying evidence while lying to conceal his alleged role in Nitro TV. They also accuse him of breaching the court injunction.
According to the motion, Galindo freely admits that he sold Nitro subscriptions to consumers but denies being the operator of the service. The entertainment companies say this is nonsense, adding that Galindo hasn’t “produced a single document or identified any of his partners or affiliates in his initial disclosures or verified interrogatory responses.”
According to Galindo, his business was run exclusively through messaging service Telegram which was configured to “self-destruct” messages after they were read. The movie and TV show companies aren’t buying that either.
Significant Financial and Electronic Trails
The motion notes that for Nitro TV to operate, that must involve the buying and selling of subscriptions and reseller credits. This results in a documented financial trail, regardless of whether Galindo was at the top of Nitro or acted somewhere lower in the reseller pyramid. Running such a business leaves an electronic trail, and it appears the plaintiffs have several inside tracks.
As an example, the entertainment companies identify a Richard Horsten as someone who worked with Galindo. The pair communicated via email, not just via “self-destructed” Telegram messages. The plaintiffs say that Galindo failed to identify Horsten in his interrogatory responses, including the fact that he paid him tens of thousands of dollars using an account in his wife’s name.
The plaintiffs also state that even after being put on notice of the action against him, Galindo continued to use Telegram for Nitro-related business while still allowing messages to “self-destruct”. He also deleted emails from his Gmail account. This, they claim, runs afoul of the requirement to preserve evidence as required by the court.
Violations of the Preliminary Injunction
After the court handed down its order early May, it’s alleged that Galindo failed to shut Nitro TV down. Then, when the plaintiffs tried to have the domain names of the Nitro service disabled as per the court’s instructions, they discovered that NitroIPTV.com and TekkHosting.com had been transferred away from Namecheap and Domain.com, which kept the service live.
In a response through his counsel, Galindo said that he couldn’t shut the service down because he was just a reseller. However, no evidence was presented to support that argument so the entertainment companies continued to obtain evidence on their own.
Mounting Evidence Supporting Plaintiffs’ Claims
After serving a subpoena on Google, they discovered that 1,500 emails had been deleted after Galindo was served on April 3, 2020. Email headers in some of those emails revealed communication with Horsten while hundreds of others were sent and received “from a number of different providers of services that facilitate the operation and sale of IPTV service.”
It was discovered that hundreds of others involved communication with payment processing company MoonClerk, which is alleged to have supported the reseller network for the Nitro TV service. Also deleted were 20+ emails related to Coinbase communications.
“[T]he very existence of many of these emails undermines Defendant’s claim that he is ‘just a reseller,’ as only operators, and not those who were merely selling subscriptions to end user subscribers, would need to communicate with many of these service providers (e.g., Xtream Codes, WHMCS),” the motion reads.
Server company FDCServers also confirmed it had an account under the name Martha Galindo, believed to be the defendant’s mother, using Alejandro Galindo’s email address.
On top, PayPal confirmed that payments of more than $30,000 had been paid to Horsten in the name of Anna Galindo, Alejandro Galindo’s wife. An unnamed third-party “involved in Nitro” said that more than $40,000 had been paid to that party through Anna Galindo, Martha Galindo, and an email associated with TekkHosting.
Plaintiffs Request Orders to Prevent Destruction of Evidence and More
Given the lack of confidence in Galindo’s cooperation thus far, the movie and TV show companies are now demanding orders requiring evidence preservation, forensic imaging of all of the defendant’s electronic devices, and an order requiring Google to “deliver and divulge” the contents of his Gmail account covering the period January 2015 to July 2020.
The motion and proposed orders can be found here (1,2,3,4 pdf)