19 November 2021Copyright

Texas court awards Dish £31m in IPTV copyright dispute

The US District Court for the Southern District of Texas has awarded US television producer Dish Network $31 million in damages, after finding that IPTV provider ChitramTV had wilfully infringed 207 of Dish’s copyrighted works.

District Judge Lynn Hughes delivered judgment in the piracy dispute on Monday, November 15.

Dish owns the exclusive rights for a number of channels, including Express Entertainment, India Today, and Times Now. In March, the producer filed a lawsuit against ChitramTV and Dinesh Vigneswaran, the alleged owner of ChitramTV Canada.

According to the complaint, ChitramTV obtains copyrighted content, transfers it to its own servers, and then rebroadcasts that content to subscribers. The producer said that ChitramTV was infringing copyright via the distribution, promotion, and sale of ‘Chitram’ set-top boxes and subscription packages.

Dish claimed to have sent numerous copyright infringement notices to ChitramTV and its content delivery network providers, but ChitramTV reportedly responded by moving its business elsewhere.

Dish sought to obtain $150,000 in statutory damages for each of the 207 copyright-protected works that the producer alleged had been infringed by ChitramTV. The producer also wanted an injunction.

Although Vigneswaran was identified, Dish could not locate the identities of other people behind the main ChitramTV service and no individuals came forward to acknowledge the proceedings on behalf of ChitramTV.

As such, on Monday, November 15, Hughes delivered default judgment in Dish’s favour.

Hughes awarded Dish £31,050,000, representing statutory damages of $150,000 for ChitramTV’s wilful infringement of each 207 of Dish’s copyrighted works.

Hughes also ordered ChitramTV to cease distribution of Dish’s channels and the works airing on those channels in the US, and to cease its promotion, distribution, and sale of its set-top boxes, subscriptions, and services which provide access to Dish’s content.

This injunction applies to “the individuals and entities who are a part of ChitramTV, any entity it creates to transmit television channels, and any of its resellers”.

Speaking to WIPR, a spokesperson for Dish said: “Dish takes the infringement of its copyrights seriously and pursues IPTV pirates and their retailers through a variety of means, including litigation. Dish is pleased with the judgment and injunction, and has already started efforts to enforce it against ChitramTV and its resellers.”

Meanwhile, Vigneswaran has denied that he is an owner of ChitramTV and a conference in respect of Dish’s case against him will proceed in February.

Chris Kuelling, executive director of the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy, has said that the judgment will enable members of the alliance to shut down one of the most popular South Asian pirate services operating in the US.

“The injunctions imposed, along with the transfer of current and future domains associated with ChitramTV, will have a devastating effect on ChitramTV and any dealer selling ChitramTV,” he said.

This is not the only copyright success that Dish has had recently; last year, the producer was awarded $9.9 million in a lawsuit against the operators of pirate internet TV service Easybox IPTV.

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