In 2021, a group of major Hollywood studios, plus Amazon and Apple which have become studios in their own right, sued the operators of two major piracy sites, AllAccessTV and Quality Restreaming; one of whom, by coincidence, is named Dwayne Johnson (no relation).
On March 27, the US District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, awarded $30 million in damages to those plaintiffs. A permanent injunction was issued the same day, and the Court declared all claims and defenses resolved. Parties were instructed to bear their own costs and attorney fees.
68 individual copyrighted works were listed in a copyright exhibit that was filed alongside the final judgment, most of which were movies and TV shows that are household names.
How it operated
AllAccessTV was sold through a network of resellers, which directed consumers to a landing page which, in turn, directed them to a page where they requested login credentials.
Subscriptions were sold for prices ranging from $10 to $45 per month
Once end users chose a service package, they were directed to an Web page that masqueraded as a VPN service, and then to contact a support line to request the pirate service software from a live customer service agent
In addition to offering movie releases, the pirate service also offered streaming TV channels which were (according to the original complaint) “streamed within seconds of the original source of the telecast. In other words, television programs airing on a particular television channel (e.g., A&E, FX, Comedy Central) are streamed nearly at the same time through the AATV Platforms, which means AATV subscribers can view these television programs virtually simultaneous with the telecast, but without subscribing to those channels through a legitimate service.
“Defendants’ IPTV services include major networks like ABC, NBC, and Fox, as well as paid channels like A&E, MTV, BET, SyFy, USA Network, and premium channels such as HBO and Cinemax.”
The second $30 million in two weeks
This judgment followed just two weeks after the $31 million judgment against Omar Carrasquillo in the Omi in a Hellcat case.
ACE applauds judgment against content piracy operator. Operator of Quality Restreams and AllAccessTV ordered to pay $30 million in damages. Press release. March 27, 2023. Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE)
Studios and streaming producers file complaint vs. AllAccessTV and Quality Restreams. Article. December 3, 2021. Piracy Monitor. Contains details of the complaint and identifies piracy techniques
Case 2:21-cv-09361-AB-MRW Universal City Studios Productions LLLP et al v. Dwayne Anthony Johnson et al. US District Court of the Central District of California, Western Division. Last filings: Permanent injunction, judgment (March 24, 2023), determination of copyright action (March 27, 2023) – Requires access to the PACER court records system.
Why it matters
“Today’s favorable judgment against the owner of a commercial-scale digital piracy operation marks a significant step forward in our fight against global piracy,” said Aaron Wais, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Litigation for the Motion Picture Association. “We are pleased with the $30 million award and the order barring the defendant from further distributing films and TV series without authorization,” according to a news release by ACE, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment.
Whether or not the $30 million is actually paid is another story. Often, a large damages award will bankrupt the pirate, and that’s deemed to be sufficient. In any case, the pirate sites will already have been taken down.
Acting as plaintiffs, Disney Enterprises, several divisions of Universal, Dreamworks, Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, and Paramount Pictures, joined by Amazon, Apple and Netflix; filed this copyright infringement lawsuit against Dwayne Anthony Johnson and 20 additional unidentified individuals that operate two infringing services: AllAccessTV and Quality Restreams. The defendants offer AllAccessTV and Quality Restreams through at least 20 Web sites.