ABS-CBN files first of a “coming wave” of lawsuits against US video pirates

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ABS-CBN, the largest media company in the Philippines – and its US subsidiary – filed lawsuits against two individuals accused of selling illegal set-top boxes (satellite TV receivers) configured to defeat signal encryption and pre-programmed to provide ABS-CBN programming to consumers for free.

Alberto Ace Mayol Alfaro in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas, and another was filed against Alfaro’s cousin Romula Araneta ‘Jon’ Castillo in the US District Court for the Central District of California.  ABS-CBN also collaborated with the Los Angeles Police Department, resulting in the arrest of Castillo on February 7, 2020.

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In the California lawsuit against, Count I cites a US federal law against unauthorized publication of “protected communications,” and against the distribution of equipment that is “primarily intended to publish or divulge” it.  Count II cites a California law that prevents the unauthorized interception of services “from a multichanel video or an information services provider” by “knowingly” selling devices designed for that purpose.

The Texas lawsuit against Alfaro is similar, citing the same federal law as in the California suit, and Texas law that is similar to the California ‘unauthorized reception’ and illegal device laws cited in the Castillo suit.

In each of the lawsuits, ABS-CBN claims it is entitled to millions of dollars in damages, plus attorney fees.  ABS-CBN’s news release also says that this case “mark(s) the first (action) this year by ABS-CBN in a coming wave against the nationwide epidemic of IPTV box sellers”

Link to ABS-CBN news release

Why it matters

This is ABS-CBN’s second action against US-based pirates in the past quarter.  In December 2019, ABS-CBN filed a $4M suit against a different Texas individual, Anthony Brown (and 1700 Cuts Technology), for selling illicit streaming devices pre-programmed with ABS-CBN programming, via Facebook.

Like many other piracy cases that have come to light, this case is complicated by the fact that it’s international, and also that within the United States, it crosses state lines.  So often, we hear about Asia-based piracy operations against US and European media companies, but this one is just the opposite.

This case shows again how a piracy operation can build a closed ecosystem of content, distribution and consumer devices.  It also underscores that video piracy is as big a problem in the US as it is in other countries that have more high-profile reputations for it.  It also shows the importance of collboration between the media and entertainment industry and law enforcement.

Also reported by AVIA – thank you.

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