Hollywood studios declare victory in piracy battle, as set-top box seller agrees to $25 million in damages
A Georgia-based set-top box seller accused of facilitating online copyright infringement on a massive scale has agreed to pay $25 million in damages to the major studios and streaming services, and will cease all piracy-related activities, according to court documents.
Attorneys for the nation’s largest film and TV companies on Tuesday filed a proposed permanent injunction against TickBox TV, which sells devices that allow users to stream movies and shows to their television sets. The injunction, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, stipulates that TickBox must remove and disable access to any software that links to stolen content.
The agreement, which must be approved by the court, represents a major victory for the Hollywood studios, along with streaming services Netflix and Amazon, who joined together last year in a wide-ranging campaign to quash intellectual property theft.
Studios and streamers sued TickBox in October, accusing the nascent operation of selling its device, once listed at $150 on its website, “as a tool for the mass infringement” of copyrights to movies and TV shows.
The injunction against the nearly 2-year-old start-up represents the first legal triumph for the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, a coalition of international studios, television networks and online video giants that have joined forces to combat piracy globally.
“TickBox and many other piracy devices and streaming apps are a threat to the millions of creators around the world who make films and television shows,” said Jolyon Kimble, a spokesperson for the group. “Today’s stipulated judgment and permanent injunction is a significant victory for ACE and the creative community, ensuring TickBox will no longer sell illegal access to pirated movie and television content.”
The injunction technically allows TickBox to continue as a business as long as it does not facilitate theft, but that appears unlikely. The company’s website now redirects visitors to a technical support page and does not offer devices for sale.
A representative for TickBox declined to comment.
Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Disney, 20th Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. are plaintiffs in the case, joined by Netflix and Amazon.
TickBox TV’s devices rely on open-source media player software known as Kodi, which can be modified with apps and add-ons from third-party developers that allow people to stream online content, sometimes including unlicensed movies and shows. The studios accused TickBox of directing its users to apps and add-ons that provided access to pirated content, such as the Fox film “War for the Planet of the Apes,” and even live television.
Kodi itself is legal, and has legitimate uses for people who don’t want to be saddled with expensive pay-TV packages, experts say. But anti-piracy advocates say the technology is often used to turn living room TV sets into user-friendly piracy portals.
In its complaint, the studios pointed to TickBox marketing materials that directed users to "[s]imply plug the Tickbox TV into your current television and enjoy unlimited access to all the hottest TV shows, Hollywood blockbusters and live sporting events in one convenient little device … absolutely free.”
The studios scored a partial victory in January when a federal judge handed down a preliminary injunction meant to block the company from encouraging its customers to illegally access copyrighted material. He stopped short of granting the Hollywood giants’ wish to put TickBox out of business.
The fight against TickBox is part of a wider crackdown by the studios and streaming services against companies that abuse Kodi technology. Earlier this year, they targeted Carlsbad, Calif., company Dragon Media, which sells and distributes set-top boxes they say are used for piracy. Intellectual property advocates have estimated there are as many as 750 websites dedicated to selling pre-loaded boxes and distributing add-ons.
TickBox TV, based in Sandy Springs, Ga., near Atlanta, was launched in November 2016 by Jeffrey and Carrla Goldstein, a husband and wife team who developed a reputation as a philanthropic power couple in their neighborhood. A local news publication once referred to them as their community’s “Brad and Angelina” and featured their tony mansion, noting its bowling alley and four-sided infinity pool.
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