DISH wins against Atlas Electronics, a warning to other would-be pirate retailers

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A final judgment by a US District Court has awarded $5,740,000 to the US-based satellite TV provider DISH Network, payable by Atlas Electronics, a retailer of illicit set top boxes, and its owner Alaa Al-Emara, for distributing more than 30 channels that had been licensed – in some cases, exclusively – to DISH.  Atlas Electronics also has been prohibited from engaging in any form of distribution in the United States.

The case was supported by the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP), whose membership includes 160 television channels from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America and which collaborates with government agencies, law enforcement, operators and technology suppliers worldwide.

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“IBCAP’s protection of its members’ content not only includes aggressive monitoring, detection and takedown tactics, but also the coordination of lawsuits against sellers and distributors of pirate services,” said Chris Kuelling, executive director of IBCAP.

No more US distribution

According to the judgment, “Defendants and any of their affiliates, officers, agents, servants, employees, or other persons acting in active concert or participation with any of the foregoing that receives actual notice of this order, are hereby permanently enjoined from:

a. transmitting, streaming, distributing, or publicly performing in the United States, with any Istar set-top box, service subscription, or any other device, application, service, or process, any of the Protected Channels or any of the programming that comprises or appears on any of the Protected Channels;

b. distributing, selling, providing, or promoting any product or service, in the United States, including any Istar set-top box or service subscription, that comprises the whole or part of a network or service for the distribution or public performance of any of the Protected Channels or any of the programming that comprises or appears on any of the Protected Channels.”

About the case

The retail operations of Atlas Electronics and owner Al-Emara are located in Dearborn, Michigan, and therefore fell under the jurisdiction of the US District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan.  The case is  2:21-cv-12219-LJM-EAS

The initial complaint was filed by DISH in September 2021, against Atlas and its owner – plus IStar, a pirate streaming service and manufacturer of illegal set-tops based in Iraq, and its owner.   This July judgment extended only to Atlas Electronics and Al-Emara.

Why it matters

The fact that the order is against the owner, personally, sends a strong message to other would-be pirate retailers and will likely deter other retailers from selling pirate services because of the risk of personal financial liability.

“A retailer in the U.S. has been ordered to pay for its illegal activities – in this case more than $5.7 million,” said Mr. Kuelling. “IBCAP will continue to work with its members to take action against sellers of illegal services to send a clear message that selling pirate services will have serious ramifications,” he said.

Atlas Electronics, Dearborn Michigan. Image source: Google street view

The decision against Atlas Electronics did not grant the statutory maximum for damages, but the amount awarded was significant for a small independent retailer, and the injunction prevents Atlas from ever selling a pirate service again.

The $5.7 million judgment was determined by multiplying the number of works registered to DISH, times a fixed amount per work: 164 x $35,000.  The initial complaint filed in 2021 asked for $150,000 per registered work, which, times 164, would have totaled more than $24 million.

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