Viacom Sues Operators of Online Channel Playing "Classic" Nickelodeon

Nick Reboot, an unauthorized 24/7 streaming site waiving the "fair use" flag, is in the cross-hairs of a lawsuit.
'SpongeBob SquarePants'

Whatever undercurrent of nostalgia has driven fans of kids shows from the 1990s and early 2000s to NickReboot.com, Viacom is having none of it.

On Friday, the parent company of Nickelodeon filed a lawsuit against the anonymous operators of the site for allegedly violating copyrights "willfully, maliciously and with wanton disregard" and for violating trademarks "by creating the false and misleading impression that Defendants’ pirated Viacom Works are produced, distributed, endorsed, sponsored, approved, or licensed."

NickReboot offers free 24/7 streaming plus a premium on-demand service with a tab of $35.99 for a year. According to NickReboot's Twitter feed, the site has played shows like SpongeBob SquarePants, Jimmy Neutron, The Adventures of Pete & Pete and Rugrats in the past 24 hours.

Viacom doesn't know who's behind NickReboot — otherwise it wouldn't be going to court against "John Does" — but it's not going to stand idly by on an unlicensed service, especially as it's about to launch its own over-the-top channel.

The operators of NickReboot have done a square pants with Viacom lawyers these past couple years.

In mid-2013, the site was written up by outlets such as Entertainment Weekly and Huffington Post before it was shut down. At the time, it was reported that the website's owner explained on Facebook that “this amount of publicity will almost certainly force Viacom to come to a legal decision about us. … I am absolutely horrified of what that might mean for myself, my loved ones, and for anyone else who was involved.”

The Facebook page has been removed and NickReboot is now up, along with an "About Us" section that hints at the company's Sisyphean legal defense ahead.

"Nick reboot exists solely to provide a medium for commentary, criticism, educational review, and research of Nickelodeon as it was during that time period," states the site. "Nick reboot operates strictly under certain provisions listed in the doctrine of 'fair use' as codified in section 107 of the copyright law, and monitors the status of related industry legislation such as Bill S.978 (pending) for compliance."

The latter refers to a proposal to make unauthorized streaming a felony.

In its lawsuit, Viacom not only wants damages, it also is demanding that ISPs, cloud storage providers, advertising service providers and anyone else offering material support to NickReboot be added to an injunction. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Viacom by David Caplan at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner

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