Will movie studios ever win the battle against illegal streaming and pirating sites? Well, judging from a new legal battle, they’re definitely not going down without a fight.
Eight studios have filed a copyright lawsuit in California district court against streaming media player TickBox. The plaintiffs claim the device, which connects to a user’s television, enables copyright infringement by downloading pirated video streams from the internet.
The studios named in the suit include Universal, Columbia, Disney, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Amazon and Netflix. Their legal team includes Karen Thorland, a lawyer for the Motion Picture Association of America.
TickBox’s marketing materials promise “the largest online media library on the planet,” updated daily. The site also frames itself as the perfect solution for people “tired of wasting money with online streaming services.”
As such, the studio suit claims that TickBox is nothing more than “a tool for the mass infringement of plaintiffs’ copyrighted motion pictures and television shows.”
The TickBox software links customers to multiple illegal, unauthorized video streams. When someone uses TickBox to watch copyrighted content, only TickBox gets paid—the studios which created the movie or TV show see no profit.
Given that roughly 500,000 people visit the TickBox website every month, the plaintiffs point out they are missing out on a significant revenue stream.
The lawsuit includes several visual demonstrations of how TickBox works. The categories on its welcome screen include “Box Office, “In Theaters” and “New Movies.” The “In Theaters” tab includes titles like War for the Planet of the Apes, which is not yet available on any legal on-demand platform (it will be released on DVD next week).
In spite of this, TickBox offers 44 different unauthorized Apes streams. The videos are available in high definition or standard resolution, and some of them were even recorded illegally in movie theaters. Anyone who watches Apes (or any other film) on TickBox can pause, rewind or fast forward through the film as if they were watching a DVD.
The studios in the suit accuse TickBox of copyright infringement because of these underhanded tactics, along with the company’s marketing, which declares the device a replacement for legal TV or streaming services.
While the lawsuit doesn’t specify a specific amount for damages, it claims that the studios in question are entitled to $150,000 per infringed work.
TickBox is based in Atlanta, and its customer support line redirects to a call center in Costa Rica. But while it may be hard to actually talk with someone at the company, the site’s Frequently Asked Questions section does include several disclaimers in which the company tries to cover itself.
“Tickbox TV is legal,” the site’s front-page Q&A reads. “Tickbox TV is only a directory or library of content which is hosted by third parties on the internet… it does not download anything.”
It remains to be seen how well this argument will hold up in court.
One other interesting aspect of this case is that while Netflix and Amazon have tried their best to separate themselves from legacy media, the two companies are apparently willing to let bygones be bygones when their bottom lines are at stake. But the jury’s out on whether this love fest will continue as film awards season heats up.