Judge Sides Against TickBox In Battle Over Video Piracy

In a blow to TickBox, a federal judge has ruled that the over-the-top device manufacturer likely promoted copyright infringement.

"There is sufficient evidence that the device can be and is used to access infringing content, and there is sufficient evidence of TickBox’s fault -- primarily in the form of its advertisements and customer-support efforts," U.S. District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald in the Central District of California wrote in a decision issued this week.

Fitzgerald's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed against TickBox by a coalition of movie studios, Amazon and Netflix. They argued that TickBox -- which allows consumers to access over-the-top video -- induces consumers to infringe copyright.

TickBox TV is powered by Kodi -- open-source software that enables people to play video. The content companies alleged that TickBox also uses add-ons that "scour the Internet for illegal sources of copyrighted content" and then display links to popular movies and TV shows to consumers.

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When the lawsuit was filed, TickBox said on its website that its service will let users stop "wasting money with online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime." The company's user interface also allegedly used to direct customers to add-ons that offered infringing content.

TickBox argued to Fitzgerald that it wasn't responsible for add-ons created by third parties. Fitzgerald appeared to reject that stance, at least for now. He said in his ruling that even if TickBox isn't directly responsible for add-ons that stream pirated programs, the company still played a role in spreading the content.

"TickBox ... has delivered to those third parties viewers they would not otherwise have had, broadening those third parties’ audiences and the scope of their infringement," he wrote. "TickBox may be held responsible for the instances of infringement that would not have otherwise occurred in the absence of the device."

Shortly after being sued, TickBox revised the language on its site as well as its user interface. Fitzgerald on Tuesday issued an injunction ordering TickBox to maintain those changes.

The studios had sought a broader injunction that also would have required TickBox to stop distributing the device, and to remotely access devices that had already been sold and delete add-ons that customers had downloaded. TickBox argued that it didn't have the right to "hack" into customers' devices and delete add-ons they had already downloaded.

Fitzgerald suggested that he may in the future order TickBox to remotely remove customers' add-ons, depending on the company's ability to do so.

"Outstanding questions pertaining to offending themes and addons, and TickBox’s ability to remove already-downloaded offending themes and addons from its users’ devices, prevent the court at this time from issuing a preliminary injunction that goes beyond maintaining the status quo," he wrote. He ordered TickBox and the content companies to "gather answers to these outstanding questions" and attempt to agree by February 7 on additional terms of an injunction.

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