Anti-piracy group BREIN has prevailed in a legal clash against an unlicensed provider of thousands of live IPTV streams and movies. A court found that Leaper Beheer BV, which operated under names including Flickstore and Live TV Store, committed copyright infringement by offering a link to a .M3U playlist. It was ordered to shut down immediately or face penalties of up to 1.25 million euros.
There are few things guaranteed in life. Death, taxes, and lawsuits filed regularly by Dutch anti-piracy outfit BREIN.
One of its most recent targets was Netherlands-based company Leaper Beheer BV, which also traded under the names Flickstore, Dump Die Deal and Live TV Store. BREIN filed a complaint at the Limburg District Court in Maastricht, claiming that Leaper provides access to unlicensed live TV streams and on-demand movies.
The anti-piracy outfit claimed that around 4,000 live channels were on offer, including Fox Sports, movie channels, commercial and public channels. These could be accessed after the customer made a payment which granted access to a unique activation code which could be entered into a set-top box.
BREIN told the court that the code returned an .M3U playlist, which was effectively a hyperlink to IPTV channels and more than 1,000 movies being made available without permission from their respective copyright holders. As such, this amounted to a communication to the public in contravention of the EU Copyright Directive, BREIN argued.
In its defense, Leaper said that it effectively provided a convenient link-shortening service for content that could already be found online in other ways. The company argued that it is not a distributor of content itself and did not make available anything that wasn’t already public. The company added that it was completely down to the consumer whether illegal content was viewed or not.
The key question for the Court was whether Leaper did indeed make a new “communication to the public” under the EU Copyright Directive, a standard the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) says should be interpreted in a manner that provides a high level of protection for rightsholders.
The Court took a three-point approach in arriving at its decision.
- Did Leaper act in a deliberate manner when providing access to copyright content, especially when its intervention provided access to consumers who would not ordinarily have access to that content?
- Did Leaper communicate the works via a new method to a new audience?
- Did Leaper have a profit motive when it communicated works to the public?
The Court found that Leaper did communicate works to the public and intervened “with full knowledge of the consequences of its conduct” when it gave its customers access to protected works.
“Access to [the content] in a different way would be difficult for those customers, if Leaper were not to provide its services in question,” the Court’s decision reads.
“Leaper reaches an indeterminate number of potential recipients who can take cognizance of the protected works and form a new audience. The purchasers who register with Leaper are to be regarded as recipients who were not taken into account by the rightful claimants when they gave permission for the original communication of their work to the public.”
With that, the Court ordered Leaper to cease-and-desist facilitating access to unlicensed streams within 48 hours of the judgment, with non-compliance penalties of 5,000 euros per IPTV subscription sold, link offered, or days exceeded, to a maximum of one million euros.
But the Court didn’t stop there.
“Leaper must submit a statement audited by an accountant, supported by (clear, readable copies of) all relevant documents, within 12 days of notification of this judgment of all the relevant (contact) details of the (person or legal persons) with whom the company has had contact regarding the provision of IPTV subscriptions and/or the provision of hyperlinks to sources where films and (live) broadcasts are evidently offered without the permission of the entitled parties,” the Court ruled.
Failure to comply with this aspect of the ruling will lead to more penalties of 5,000 euros per day up to a maximum of 250,000 euros. Leaper was also ordered to pay BREIN’s costs of 20,700 euros.
Describing the people behind Leaper as “crooks” who previously sold media boxes with infringing addons (as previously determined to be illegal in the Filmspeler case), BREIN chief Tim Kuik says that a switch of strategy didn’t help them evade the law.
“[Leaper] sold a link to consumers that gave access to unauthorized content, i.e. pay-TV channels as well as video-on-demand films and series,” BREIN chief Tim Kuik informs TorrentFreak.
“They did it for profit and should have checked whether the content was authorized. They did not and in fact were aware the content was unauthorized. Which means they are clearly infringing copyright.
“This is evident from the CJEU case law in GS Media as well as Filmspeler and The Pirate Bay, aka the Dutch trilogy because the three cases came from the Netherlands, but these rulings are applicable throughout the EU.
“They just keep at it knowing they’re cheating and we’ll take them to the cleaners,” Kuik concludes.