Federal Court Orders Impoundment of MyFreeNeeds Domains, Awards DISH/NagraStar $12,000,000 in Statutory Damages, and Enters Permanent Injunction against Angel Solis
On October 15, 2012 the United States District Court for the Southern District of California entered judgment in DISH Network and NagraStar’s favor in their case against Angel Solis and the myfreeneeds.com website. Solis and others were sued in January of 2012 for their operation of the myfreeneeds.com website, and the site’s distribution of piracy-related software files. The Court previously entered a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction compelling the website to be taken offline. In addition to the permanent injunction entered by the Court in the October 15th Order, the judge also awarded DISH Network and NagraStar statutory damages in the amount of $12 million under their Federal Communications Act claim. The Court further ordered GoDaddy to transfer the website domains at issue in the case to NagraStar, and ordered Defendants to turn over for impoundment all software files, business records, inventory computer hard drives and servers related to the operation of the myfreeneeds domains to DISH Network’s counsel for impoundment.
Federal Court Denies Sonicview’s Motions to Set Aside the $64 Million Dollar Judgment Entered Against Them
On October 11, 2012 the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Honorable M. James Lorenz, issued an order denying Sonicview‘s last attempt to challenge the final judgment entered against them and awarding DISH Network and NagraStar over $64,000,000.00 in damages. As previously reported, the Federal District Court granted DISH Network and NagraStar‘s motion for summary judgment against the Sonicview corporate and individual defendants on May 31, 2012. In that order, the Court found ruled that Sonicview receivers and various add-on devices distributed by the Defendants violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) as well as the Federal Communications Act (“FCA”) because they were primarily designed and intended for use in facilitating satellite television piracy. In an effort to seek relief from that Order, the Sonicview Defendants filed various motions to reconsider, set aside or clarify the final judgment entered against them or, alternatively, for a new trial. The Court’s October 11, 2012 Order denied each of those motions, and an earlier Order dated September 19, 2012 similarly denied Defendant Courtney Bernard’s motion challenging the judgment against him in an additional amount of approximately $1,000,000.00. Bernard and his brother were distributors of the Sonicview products at issue in the litigation. DISH Network and NagraStar will aggressively pursue the enforcement of the judgment and seizure of assets of the Sonicview Defendants, as well as enforcement of the Court’s permanent injunction that was issued along with the May 31, 2012 final judgment.
California bankruptcy court holds piracy judgment against Prosonicview owner Christopher Whitcomb non-dischargeable
On September 17, 2012 the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of California ruled in favor of DISH Network, EchoStar Technologies and NagraStar in their long-running battle against Prosonicview owner Christopher Whitcomb. DISH Network filed suit against Whitcomb and his Prosonicview business in February 2011 alleging multiple violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”), Federal Communications Act, and the Electronics Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”). On July 19, 2011 the District Court entered final judgment against Whitcomb, ordered him to pay DISH Network and NagraStar $14.4 million dollars in statutory damages, and issued a permanent injunction against him. In October 2011 the District Court entered an order finding Whitcomb in contempt of the injunction and cautioned him that any further violations would result in his imprisonment. In an effort to avoid the monetary judgment against him, Whitcomb filed bankruptcy under Chapter 7 in January 2012. DISH Network opposed the discharge of the $14.4 million judgment against Whitcomb and on September 17 the Bankruptcy Court ruled in favor of DISH Network, holding the entirety of the judgment non-dischargeable pursuant to sections 523(a)(4) and (a)(6) of Title 11 of the United States Code. DISH Network is pleased with the Court’s ruling and will aggressively pursue execution of the judgment against Whitcomb and any business entities in which he has an interest.
By means of a presidential decree, Uruguay has banned the sale of AZBox STBs and other similar brands because said devices can be modified for the reception of illegal Pay-TV services. According to Prensario Internacional, more than 40,000 of these devices have already been modified in the country. This decision applies not only to the sale of decoders in Uruguayan territory but also their distribution with the purpose of selling them abroad.
Although Uruguay is the first Latin American country to adopt such a measure, other countries have already taken steps to leverage piracy. In Argentina, for example, the Chamber of Audiovisual Channel Producers and Programmers presented last Wednesday two TV spots for a new campaign aimed at promoting the national audiovisual industry growth and fighting against piracy and content theft. In fact, the president of the aforementioned chamber, Sergio Veiga, mentioned the utilization of AZBox STBs and confirmed that it is one of the latest piracy modalities in Latin America.
Veiga also shared figures regarding the piracy issue in the region. About USD 1.2 billion are lost in terms of unsold subscriptions of authorized cable and DTH companies; which accounts for USD 500 million in terms of uncollected taxes and more than USD 800 million lost by programmers.
In turn, Chile has also announced an STB “switch-off” of pirate DTHs in the country. Constanza Tellez, DirecTV Corporate Affairs Manager, stated that “more of these devices are going into Chile, as compared with Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay, because in those countries laws are being applied”. And she added: “Here, we have fallen a bit behind”.
Federal Court enters default against Dark Angel end-user Evelyn Sweeting, awards $10,000 in statutory penalties and issues a permanent injunction
On August 31, 2012 the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia granted DISH Network and NagraStar’s motion for default against Evelyn Sweeting. Sweeting was sued by DISH Network and NagraStar for federal claims arising out of her subscription to the Dark Angel services. The Court’s order includes a permanent injunction against Sweeting as well as an award of $10,000 in statutory damages (the maximum damages per violation) under the Electronics Communication Privacy Act (“ECPA”). DISH Network and NagraStar continue to investigate and take action against those responsible for trying to circumvent the companies’ security system in order to gain unauthorized access to DISH Network programming.