Canadian pay TV companies win judgement against illicit device pirates

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A group of media plaintiffs (Bell Media, Rogers Media and Groupe TVA) and pay TV distributors (Bell Canada, Bell ExpressVu, Rogers Cable, and Videotron) were awarded a total of C$29,300,000 in statutory damages (about half of the initial C$58 million requested by the plaintiffs) plus an additional $300,000 of punitive damages and $75,000 in costs, from a group of businesses and an individual selling illicit streaming devices and illegal video streaming services.

Together, the plaintiffs reach more than half of TV subscribers in the country. Initial injunctions were made against the defendants in 2016, seeking to stop these illegal offerings.

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What the pirates were offering

The range of illicit devices identified in the decision includes media player add-on software such as Kodi, and Android-based set-top boxes pre-loaded with media player applications like Showbox.   Boxes were found to be sold in physical retail stores as well as online.

The Plaintiffs originally sought $7,720,000 in damage from INL3D, which offered pre-configured devices with access to “‘hundreds of channels for LESS than the cost of Basic Cable’ and to more than 174 high definition channels,” and “at least 386 individual works.”  Its stores and Web site were thought to be closed, but the company’s registration is active.

Damages of $28,160,000 are sought from Ottawa Tek and Raheel Rafiq, which advertised an “Unlimited TV Streaming Box” with “Over 700 Live Channels, Free TV, Movie & Music,” and 1,408 individual works.  Ottawa Tek was dissolved in 2019. Rafiq was the only person to respond to online inquiries.

A third pirate, Morcor, offered “at least four” set-top models pre-loaded with Kodi media center softeware, which were also pre-loaded with access to “over 300+ Channels Of Local and Specialty TV Channels” including “CBC, CTV, Global, City… As Well (sic) specialty channels such as TLC, DIY, DISCOVERY< HBO< MOVIETIME and Much More,” with access to at least 1,136 individual works.  Morcor remains an active corporation and continues to operate its store, although it was said to be no longer (openly) selling set-top boxes. The plaintiff originally sought $22,720,000 in damages from Morcor.

The decision also lists the inventories of programming that were redistributed by the pirates

Read the decision: “Bell Canada v. L3D Distributing Inc.” (Neutral citation 2020 FC 832, File number T-759-16)

Why it matters

The decision document clearly described its reasoning and cited evidence that the programming was stolen and was redistributed by a specific range of devices without license to do so.  The decision also cited the decline in pay TV subscribers as a factor in pursuing these pirates, but also acknowledged that piracy was not the only cause of that decline.


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