‘Pirate’ IPTV Provider and Reseller Hit With $31m Copyright Lawsuit

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A 'pirate' IPTV provider and reseller are being targeted in a copyright infringement lawsuit filed by DISH Network in the United States. The broadcaster claims that ChitramTV, which says it is located in Germany, the UK and US, obtains and distributes its channels online via a network of resellers, managed by a Canadian resident. DISH wants more than $31m in damages.

IPTVUS broadcaster DISH Network has built a reputation for going in hard against companies and individuals who offer unlicensed access to its channels.

Over the years the company has gone after card-sharing (IKS) operations but more recently its focus has been on ‘pirate’ IPTV providers that offer DISH programming to the public at a cheap price.

These cases rarely end well for the entities targeted by DISH, with courts happy to hand down large damages awards alongside broad, prohibitive injunctions. A new case filed in the United States this week sees DISH target yet another ‘pirate’ IPTV provider and the alleged manager of a reselling network, demanding considerable damages.

Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed in Texas

DISH’s lawsuit targets IPTV provider ChitramTV, which does business from the Chitram.tv domain. It also names Dinesh Vigneswaran, the alleged owner of ChitramTV Canada, who allegedly does business from the Chitram.ca website.

According to DISH, ChitramTV obtains its broadcasts and streams, transfers them to its own servers, and then rebroadcasts them to subscribers of the Chitram service. ChitramTV distributes, sells and promotes ‘Chitram’ set-top boxes and subscription packages to users directly and through a network of resellers, including Vigneswaran.

The IPTV service allegedly offers more than 500 live TV channels and 10,000 movies, with an offer to keep the public entertained “during quarantine”. Chitram also offers catchup and timeshifting services, which according to DISH means that it must be saving copies of its copyrighted content on its own servers.

DISH says it has identified various content delivery networks (CDNs) being utilized by the Chitram service, which is offered via a set-top box and one-year subscription package for approximately $149, with renewals costing between $70 and $115, depending on duration.

Investigation Has Been Running For Years

DISH says it sent at least 134 copyright infringement notices to Chitram between July 2014 and November 2015, with instructions to cease-and-desist. In December 2015, Chitram “temporarily ceased” transmitting DISH content but by December 2017, it was back in business. Since then, DISH says it has sent at least 30 additional notices of infringement but the complaints were ignored.

From April 2018, DISH also sent copyright notices to several CDNs associated with the Chitram service but according to the broadcaster, Chitram took evasive action by transmitting DISH content from other CDNs or locations.

Precisely where the Chitram IPTV service operates from is unclear but the provider appears to have connections to Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

In October 2020, a DISH investigator contacted the reseller behind the Chitram.co.uk domain to ask about becoming a reseller in the United States. The inquiry was referred to Chitram in Germany, where the IPTV provider claims to have its headquarters.

Focus on Dinesh Vigneswaran

When Chitram in Germany responded to DISH, the provider said its “US manager” would call to provide all of the information. On the same day, the DISH investigator received a call from Vigneswaran who offered a deal to supply Chitram devices at $109 each and an instruction for them to be sold at a minimum of $149.

Vigneswaran allegedly told DISH that he was in Toronto (ChitramTV Canada) but had 60 resellers and a warehouse of devices in the United States.

Early November 2020, the DISH investigator bought four Chitram boxes and six subscriptions from Vigneswaran and paid the money into his PayPal account. Later that month and in January 2921, several similar purchases were made. After testing the boxes, it was found that they infringed DISH’s exclusive rights.

According to the complaint, DISH sent notices of infringement to Vigneswaran in November and December 2020, and in January 2021, demanding that he stop “distributing, selling, and promoting” the Chitram service in the United States. DISH received no response to the complaints.

Copyright Infringement Claims

DISH says that the Chitram IPTV service is responsible for direct infringement of its copyrights in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 501.

“The copyrighted programs were transmitted from computer servers controlled by Chitram to Service Users who accessed the programs using the Chitram Service,” the lawsuit reads.

“Chitram’s actions are willful, malicious, intentional, purposeful, and in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of DISH.”

DISH adds that the defendants, including Vigneswaran, materially contribute to the infringements carried out by the Chitram service’s users by providing access to the protected channels and content, despite having the ability to prevent access to it.

“Defendants also induce the infringement of DISH’s exclusive distribution and public performance rights by, among other things, creating the audience for that infringement in the United States,” the complaint adds.

Claim for Damages, Permanent Injunction, Domain Seizures

As a result of the above, DISH demands a permanent injunction against all defendants plus statutory damages of $150,000 per infringed work. DISH lists 207 registered works, leading to a claim in excess of $31 million, should the court see fit.

On top, the broadcaster wants permission to seize all infringing devices under 17 U.S.C. § 503, an order to take control of all domains used to infringe its rights, plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

The complaint can be found here (pdf)


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