Members of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) along with content arms of Netflix and Amazon are joining forces on a copyright lawsuit filed against a semi-obscure streaming media player Called TickBox TV.
The complaint —which was filed by Universal Studios, Columbia Pictures, Disney, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros. Entertainment, Netflix Studios and Amazon Content Services—alleges that TickBox TV in offering pirated streams of copyrighted content and subsists solely off of infringed upon material.
Looking at the streaming set-top box sold by TickBox TV, one wouldn’t imagine the innocuous looking box would be at the center of a massive lawsuit about copyright infringement. But the device has come under fire for providing what content creators consider to be illegal access to television shows and films that they have produced.
The device, which retails online for about $150, is powered by Android 6.0 and the popular open source media player known as Kodi. It operates similarly to other streaming devices in that it allows a user to browse through content and watch whatever they may choose from any number of apps that can be installed on the device.
What is different about TickBox than many of its competitors is that it isn’t providing access to content that users have already paid for or to streaming service like Netflix with a subscription fee. Instead, TickBox searches the web for streams of TV shows and movies—most of which are hosted illegally.
“What TickBox actually sells is nothing less than illegal access to Plaintiffs’ copyrighted content,” the complaint from the studios accuse. “TickBox TV uses software to link TickBox’s customers to infringing content on the Internet. When those customers use TickBox TV as Defendant intends and instructs, they have nearly instantaneous access to multiple sources that stream Plaintiffs’ Copyrighted Works without authorization.”
While TickBox doesn’t outright say it’s providing illegal access to copyrighted material on its website, it is not particularly coy about its intentions, either. The marketing materials for the box claim it is made to replace paid-for content.
On the TickBox website, it asks users if they are sick of “paying high monthly fees and expensive bills for your regular cable bill” and tired of “wasting money with online streaming services” while positioning itself as an alternative with no ongoing payments to worry about.
In its complaint, the studios showed just how easy it was to find stolen content through TickBox. The companies described searching for a stream of the film “War for the Planet of the Apes,” which it found despite the film not being authorized for in-home viewing at the time of the search.
TickBox also offers the ability to search for films that are currently in theaters and would otherwise be unavailable to watch at home. The box finds pirated streams, either filmed in movie studios or ripped from early releases of the film provided to reviewers and others who receive screening copies.
While the activity certainly qualifies as shady at the very least, TickBox holds that it hasn’t broken the law. On the question and answer page of its website, TickBox insists that it is legal because it’s just a piece of hardware.
“Tickbox TV is a device much like a computer or cell phone,” the company argued. “It provides a hardware platform for you to utilize Kodi and download add-ons for Kodi or apps for Android TV via the Google Play store. Devices like Tickbox TV are perfectly legal as it does not offer file-sharing, copying or sharing of content streamed to the device.”
Despite the claim, the curated content and dedicated section for movies still in theaters, it’s not clear that defense would hold up particularly well in court were it to challenge the complaint filed against it.