Earlier this year, film producer and investor Moshe Edery fired warning shots at Mastercard, Visa and American Express for continuing to provide payment processing to pirate streaming sites.
Edery, the co-founder of Screen iL, an international TV streaming platform for Israelis living abroad, said companies should be aware that pirate sites are involved in criminal copyright infringement and the money laundering. The suggestion was that by continuing to do business with them, payment companies should also expect legal action against them.
Although this is a first in the fight against piracy, several companies linked to Edery have just won three separate copyright lawsuits in the United States. The judgments and injunctions not only open new horizons in the United States, but could also represent one of the most important anti-piracy victories of the century.
Edery affiliates sued pirate sites in 2021
Last year, companies including United King Film Distribution, DBS Satellite Services and Hot Communication filed three copyright infringement lawsuits in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Each complaint targeted a specific pirate streaming site – Israel-tv.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv – the latter being Israel’s most popular pirate streaming site with millions of visitors each month.
At least in general terms, prosecutions were relatively mundane. They toed traditional lines by demanding $150,000 in statutory damages for each copyrighted work infringed and an injunction to stop the infringement from proceeding. From the start, it seemed highly unlikely that the operators of these sites would take to court to defend themselves, meaning that the plaintiffs’ victory in these cases was never really in doubt.
Late last week, the plaintiffs won all three lawsuits by default judgments. The court ordered the operators of Israel-tv.com, Israel.tv and Sdarot.tv to each pay $7,650,000 in damages for copyright infringement relating to 51 recorded works belonging to the plaintiffs.
While the nearly $23 million in damages is not a negligible amount, the injunctions issued in all three cases are unheard of in a TV/movie piracy case.
Permanent injunctions open new horizons in the United States
In all three judgments, defendants are enjoined and restrained from infringing plaintiffs’ rights, including by broadcasting, distributing or making available to the public any of their copyrighted works. They are also prohibited from operating their websites from existing domains or any other domains they may use in the future.
All the pretty standard stuff so far – and then the big one.
All ISPs…and any other ISPs providing services in the United States shall block access to the Website at any domain address known today…or to be used in the future by Defendants…by any technological means available on ISP systems.
Attached to each judgment is a list of US-based ISPs who are required to not only block domains currently used by pirate sites, but also any domains they may use in the future. The first page of the ISP list is shown below, but there are nine pages in total covering nearly 100 residential ISPs.
The orders also specify that the list is not exhaustive, which means that the orders also apply to all other ISPs providing services in the United States.
“Domain addresses and any newly detected websites must be funneled in such a way that users cannot log in and/or use the website, and will be diverted by ISP DNS servers to an exploited landing page and controlled by the plaintiffs,” the injunctions continue.
It’s unclear how long it will take all ISPs in the United States to comply with the command, but the specified landing page is already live at http://zira-usa-11025.org.
So what we seem to have here are three substantially identical judgments and permanent injunctions that compel all ISPs in the United States to implement blocking the entire site for copyright infringement. Additionally, these are examples of so-called “dynamic” injunctions that are designed to accommodate any anti-blocking countermeasures sites may deploy in the future.
These injunctions already exist in several other countries, but at least to our knowledge, this is the first time that copyright holders have been granted such sweeping powers in the United States. SOPA promised to block the whole site for piracy, but a decade later it turns out that the existing copyright law was already pretty good.
Additional Features of Injunctions
The three injunctions prevent any third-party company (including ISPs, hosting providers, CDN providers, DNS providers, domain name companies, advertising services, financial institutions, payment processors, etc.) to do business with the sites on their current domains or any new ones.
All domains must be funneled to the landing page operated by the plaintiffs and all companies where the defendants hold accounts must be located and frozen. To satisfy the damages listed in each judgment, all funds in these accounts must be transferred to the plaintiffs within 30 days.
Complainants can also perform additional discovery against virtually any entity they believe is connected to the infringing sites (or their operators) to locate more assets.
If the defendants don’t like the court’s decision, they are welcome to appeal, but having avoided court so far, that seems unlikely. It’s currently unknown if every (or any) ISP in the US will challenge the injunction, but we can be pretty sure that if they choose not to, these three site-blocking injunctions won’t be the latest in the United States.
The three judgments and injunctions can be found here (1,2,3, pdf)