DISH Network went on the offensive against one of the largest pirate distributors of Arabic language TV programming in the United States, for illegally offering programming for which DISH had exclusive license to distribute.
The suit was filed against Michigan-based Atlas Electronics, a retailer of illegal set-top boxes and pirate services; plus iStar Company, the producer of a pirate service distributed by Atlas Electronics, and its owner Ahmed Karim.
The suit seeks damages of more than $24 million and injunctive relief to help ensure that the offense is not repeated. It was filed in Michigan because Atlas Electronics has a retail store in Dearborn.
Illegal IStar services and devices
The illegal devices were products of iStar Company, aka Istar Korea Ltd., an LLC based in Erbil, Iraq, which owns the IStar IPTV pirate streaming service, services. IStar was cited in the 2021 Notorious Markets List published by the Office of the US Trade Representative.
IStar’s user manual states that that it offers “IPTV internet protocol TV its view all popular channels around the world without dish just by internet its subscribe more than 700 channels” (sic) and displayed the logos of many of the stolen channels. The company offered set-top boxes for $140 to $160, including a 12 month subscription with 12 month renewals for $60.
Industry collaboration helped build evidence
The law suit was announced by IBCAP, the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy, of which DISH Network is a member. IBCAP’s mission is to confirm the infringing nature of suspected pirate services, apps and streaming devices, help build evidence against the pirate, and assist in supporting those cases. IBCAP has regularly announced successes against piracy. Piracy Monitor interviewed IBCAP President Chris Kuelling in May 2021.
It wasn’t IStar’s first offense
IStar is a repeat offender. Starting in March 2016, DISH and the networks whose content was stolen and redistributed by IStar had sent at least 69 copyright infringement notices demanding that IStar cease distribution. No responses were received after March 2019, following a number of highly profane responses in 2017.
In 2018, DISH investigators turned their attention to Atlas Satellite, and sent demands to cease their offerings. In late 2020, Atlas confirmed that they were selling IStar and another service. In early 2021, an investigator purchased IStar service and later confirmed an active inventory of live equipment. The Atlas Electronics page on Facebook was still active at the time of this article.
IStar is identified in the lawsuit as being the largest digital TV reception manufacturer in Iraq and provider of “engineering consulting services related to communicagtions systems design and analysis, digital, software, and mechanical design services.” The suit also identifies how iStar promotes its services and sells set-top boxes online and through social media. Further evidence was built against iStar from YouTube viewing history for tutorial videos about software intallation, hardware and software upgrades, channel scanning, and home network connectivity.
The suit cites that IStar violated DISH copyrights and arrived at the $24 million damages figure based on infringement of 164 or more registered works, at up to $150,000 per registered work. Other remedies include the transfer of all infringing articles and Internet domains, to DISH.
Read the DISH complaint (Case 2:21-cv-12219-LJM-EAS, filed in the US District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan)
Why it matters
This case illustrates how piracy knows no borders, with defendents based in the United States and Iraq. The most effective anti-piracy initiatives involve partnerships. In this case, IBCAP, its technology joint venture partner Nagra, and the US judicial system