In a complaint filed in the US District Court of Central California, Amazon Technologies described several Web sites that were selling illegal DVDs. Although they looked real enough, they were physical copies of programs that were offered exclusively online by Amazon Prime.
Amazon claimed that “Defendants own, operate, and control a global network of websites (the “Piracy Websites”) through which they sell digital versatile discs (“DVDs”) that infringe Amazon’s most popular and acclaimed original, creative works … To date, Amazon has not released for sale or distribution the Amazon Series on DVD, and instead exclusively distributes such content via its streaming-video-on-demand (“SVOD”) platform, Amazon Prime Video (“Prime Video”)
Upon further investigation
Amazon conducted multiple test purchases of non-Amazon DVDs from the pirates’ Web sites, and enlisted the help of the Motion Picture Association (“MPA”) to examine the test-purchased DVDs. The MPA determined that every single sample was pirated, infringing, and not authorized for sale. Amazon is a member of the MPA’s Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), which has more than 60 member companies from the media and entertainment industry ecosystem, and is active against infringement worldwide.
One of the defendants filed a trademark registration for “DVD Shelf” in Australia, listing an address in Sichuan Province, China. The Complaint contends that he participated in – and possibly orchestrated – piracy campaigns from there. In addition, there were two unknown business entities doing business as “DVD Shelf,” and ten unidentified individuals doing business through seven Web domains registered with Australia and UK top-level domain (.au and .uk) and .com addresses.
Amazon alleges that “The pirate domains dvd-wholesale.com (“DVD Wholesale”), bilidvd.com, dvdshelf.com.au, ddddd.com.au, buydvds.com.au, dvds.trade, and dvdwholesale.co.uk (were) working in active concert with each other and … knowingly and willfully manufacture, advertise, market, offer, distribute, and sell pirated and counterfeit DVDs through the Piracy Websites.”
Complaint for Damages and Equitable Relief. AMAZON TECHNOLOGIES, INC., a Nevada corporation; and AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES, LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, Plaintiffs, vs. DVD TRADE INT. LTD, an unknown business entity d/b/a DVDSHELF; MEDIA WHOLESALE UK, an unknown business entity d/b/a DVDSHELF; YANGCHUN ZHANG, ) an individual d/b/a DVDSHELF; and Does 1-10 d/b/a dvd-wholesale.com, bilidvd.com, dvdshelf.com.au, ddddd.com.au, buydvds.com.au, dvds. trade, and dvdwholesale.co.uk, Defendants. Document 1. August 22, 2023. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA, WESTERN DIVISION
Why it matters
While piracy cases rarely involve distribution on physical media anymore, they too have the ability to deceive consumers into believing that they are legitimate, and are an illegal revenue source for the pirates.
Titles offered for sale by the pirates included The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (together with the other television series listed in Exhibit A of the Complaint. “Amazon has committed extensive resources to promote the Amazon Series, which have become hugely popular as a result, reaching millions of viewers across the globe,” said Amazon.