Most of the major Hollywood movie studios are trying to cripple multiple alleged pirate TV services with a single lawsuit.
The studios last week filed a copyright infringement suit against Omniverse One World Television Inc., which provides streaming video to several online TV services. Omniverse claims to have legal rights to the content, but the studios say it doesn’t.
The complaint was filed Thursday in US District Court for the Central District of California by Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Warner Bros. The studios previously used lawsuits to shut down the maker of a streaming device called the Dragon Box and another called TickBox. The studios’ new lawsuit says that Omniverse supplied content to Dragon Box and to other alleged pirate services that are still operating.
“Defendant Jason DeMeo and his company, Omniverse, stream Plaintiffs’ copyrighted movies and television shows without authorization to an already large, and rapidly growing, number of end users,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants are not, however, just an infringing, consumer-facing service, akin to Dragon Box. Defendants operate at a higher level in the supply chain of infringing content—recruiting numerous downstream services like Dragon Box into the illicit market and providing them with access to unauthorized streams of copyrighted content. Defendants function as a ‘hub’ of sorts, with the enlisted downstream services as the ‘spokes.’ Omniverse’s offering is illegal, it is growing, and it undermines the legitimate market for licensed services.”
Services using Omniverse content are advertised as “Powered by Omniverse.” Besides Dragon Box, they include “SkyStream TV, Flixon TV, and Silicon Dust’s HDHomeRun Service,” according to the lawsuit.
SkyStream, for example, offers more than 70 live TV channels for $35 a month, while pricier packages, according to the complaint, also include premium channels such as HBO. SkyStream’s website says its service “is delivered In Cooperation with Omniverse One World Television.”
According to its website, Omniverse “partners with key distributors across the USA to empower end users with the ability to view their favorite TV channels with no contracts, no credit checks, and no long-term obligations.”
Omniverse vague about licensing details
A recent Cord Cutters News article that was cited in the lawsuit examined whether Omniverse has the rights to distribute the content. The article said:
With the flood of services all pointing to Omniverse, it has raised questions about how legal this is. Some of these services seem to operate under different rules than most live-TV streaming services.
According to Omniverse, they acquired rights to some of these channels including the ability to stream outside by a contract that is only one of three such contracts in the United States. When pushed on that contract, Jason [DeMeo] said they could not give too many details or it could help others figure out how to track down the last two contracts like the one they use.
Jason went on to say they are in the process of buying the rights to the other two contracts that would allow others to create similar services. According to Omniverse, once they close on the rights for the other two contracts they promised to be more open about their current contracts.
But the movie studios’ lawsuit alleges that Omniverse has no rights to distribute their video content. While Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube TV, and other legitimate streaming services purchase rights to the content, Omniverse has not, the lawsuit said.
“Plaintiffs have not granted licenses that permit Defendant DeMeo or Omniverse to stream the Copyrighted Works or sublicense streams to whatever counterparty they wish,” the complaint said. “These services are unauthorized and compete unfairly with licensed services. They offer premium content (including HBO, Showtime, and other channels) and technical features (such as DVR capabilities and simultaneous streaming to different devices), and compete directly with licensed services, but often at a lower price. Their unfair competitive advantage is attributed directly to Defendants, who provide the downstream services with streaming access to the Copyrighted Works without the licensing obligations that would ordinarily need to be met.”
Besides providing content to other services, Omniverse also used to offer its own video device directly to consumers, the complaint said. The device was called the “OmniBox,” and it “offered access to hundreds or thousands of live and on-demand channels for less than $25 per month, plus the one-time hardware cost of the OmniBox,” the complaint said.
The complaint asks for an injunction shutting the company down and damages of up to $150,000 for each infringed work.
We contacted DeMeo today about the lawsuit and will update this article if we get a response.
In a similar case, the studios and Amazon and Netflix have a pending lawsuit against Set TV, which offered a $20-per-month TV service with more than 500 channels. Set TV shut down after the lawsuit was filed.