house > Lawsuits > IPTV and Streaming >
In 2018, a court in the Netherlands ruled that companies selling access to pirated IPTV playlists acted illegally, even though they were not the suppliers of the offending streams. The decision was a win for Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN, which later demanded a cash settlement from the companies’ directors. They eventually refused to pay, so BREIN filed a full-blown lawsuit and has now come to the fore.
An interesting feature of the file sharing and streaming landscapes of the past two decades is their interaction with current copyright law.
Over the years, many sites, services and platforms providing or facilitating access to infringing content have taken refuge in perceived loopholes but most have found that few if any exist.
In Europe, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has been the driver behind several high-profile cases involving defendants who believe they have found a legal foothold in an illegal market. In one such lawsuit, BREIN took on Leaper Beheer BV, a Netherlands-based company and related business entities, which sold pirated IPTV subscriptions in .M3U playlist form.
These types of playlists do not contain violating content, but they can direct users where to find the violating content. In this case, there are about 4,000 live TV channels and 1,000 movies via the unlicensed IPTV service.
In its defense, Leaper argued that it did not provide any infringing content and that the playlists did not provide anything that was not already available on the Internet. BREIN insisted that distribution of the playlist amounted to “public communication” under EU copyright law.
In 2018, the court sided with BREIN, stating that when Leaper Beheer BV, Growler BV, DITisTV and their respective principals distributed the playlist, they made the associated content available to a ‘new audience’ other than what the copyright holders envisioned.
Stop violating court orders
After determining the copyright infringement, the court ordered the defendants to stop facilitating access to the unlicensed streams or face penalties of €5,000 per IPTV playlist/subscription sold, up to a maximum of €1 million.
After being found liable, the three companies and their directors signed cease and desist agreements with BREIN, in order to avoid a full-blown lawsuit that would incur additional costs and damages. BREIN says the defendants were also required to pay a settlement fee. When those payments were not forthcoming, BREIN carried out its threat.
In partnership with media companies including Talpa and RTL, BREIN confiscated the evidence and commenced legal action. As expected, the plaintiffs came out on top.
Court rules in favor of BREIN – again
BREIN is now revealing that on March 16, 2022, the Maastricht Court ruled that four companies (Leaper, Growler, DITisTV and Ultimo) and their directors are liable for damage caused by the sale of IPTV subscriptions and links to illegal IPTV and associated set-top boxes.
BREIN says it has tried to get merchants to stop selling €10 per month subscriptions since 2014 and had to take the matter to court in 2018 to prove a violation had occurred. When an offer to pay a settlement rather than a full lawsuit was denied, a case was presented on the merits.
The evidence was presented to show that the directors and their companies intended to infringe copyright, which is an aggravating factor when calculating damages. The following email between the managers certainly didn’t help in that regard.
Maybe the market will really be destroyed by the whole competition and BREIN in a year. With 100 Stores we can fuck the market right down to its mother! If we have a lot of money in a year, then we can go into a new business.
The court decides that the directors are personally liable
Corporate structure can sometimes provide a level of protection for directors when things don’t go as planned but that is not the case here. The Dutch court has found that the companies (and their directors personally) are jointly and severally liable for the damage to the copyright owners.
The exact amount has not yet been determined but the financial costs are already mounting. The court ordered the defendants to pay the costs of the proceedings, estimated at €20,764 ($22,986), plus legal costs of €2,252 ($2,493).
At this point, the defendants are worse off financially than they were when the settlement was first offered. However, BREIN suggests that it remains open to settling the matter out of court. If not, a separate damages determination proceeding will proceed. It is unlikely to be a small amount.
Meanwhile, BREIN seems to be happy with the results so far.
“These guys tried to sing it as long as possible to make as much money as possible. It’s going to cost them now,” He says Principal of Brain Tim Quick. “Because they are also personally responsible, they can no longer hide behind their companies.”
Resolution can be found here