Major Hollywood studios as well as Netflix and Amazon are escalating their crackdown on streaming device sellers that they say facilitate piracy on a massive scale.
The studios and streaming services Wednesday sued Carlsbad, Calif.-based company Dragon Media, which sells and distributes set-top boxes that allow people to stream video from the web to their television sets. Dragon Media, the studios say, induces mass copyright infringement of their movies and television shows including "Stranger Things," "Deadpool" and "Wonder Woman."
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Dragon Media urges their customers to use the streaming device, known as a Dragon Box, for watching copyrighted movies and TV shows. Its marketing materials tell users to "watch your favorites anytime for free" and "get rid of your premium channels … [and] stop paying for Netflix and Hulu," the complaint says.
"Dragon Box uses software to link its customers to infringing content on the Internet," the studios said in their 23-page complaint. "When used as defendants intend and instruct, Dragon Box gives defendants' customers access to multiple sources that stream plaintiffs' copyrighted works without authorization."
The suit also names Dragon Media Inc. owner and President Paul Christoforo and Dragon Box device distributor Jeff Williams as defendants. The studios are seeking an injunction against Dragon Media, Christoforo and Williams, and up to $150,000 per infringed work.
Dragon Box representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The suit is the latest legal action by Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, a coalition of international studios, television networks and online video giants that have joined forces to combat piracy globally. Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. are plaintiffs in the case, along with Netlfix and Amazon.
In October, the group filed a similar suit against TickBox TV, a Georgia-based company that also sells streaming devices. The company has denied that it is engaging in piracy, arguing that it merely sells hardware for streaming and is not responsible for how people use the product.
Both Dragon Media and TickBox use a popular software called Kodi, an open-source program that developers can modify with apps known as add-ons that allow users to stream video from the Web. While Kodi itself is legal and has legitimate uses, many add-ons stream unauthorized content, which has become a growing source of anxiety for Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
Christoforo's LinkedIn page includes a disclaimer about the technology.
"It is legal to stream content on the internet," his page says. "We can't be held liable for the movies and TV channels online that people are watching, because all the software is doing is accessing content that is readily available online."
Christoforo was previously president of video game marketing and sales firm Ocean Marketing. He became infamous in 2011 for an email spat in which he berated a customer of a company that hired Ocean to market a video gaming device. The incident went viral when the conversation was posted online.