Major Studios, Streamers Win Early Battle in War With TickBox

The court ordered TickBox to maintain certain changes it made to its user interface and advertising after the studios sued.

Major Hollywood studios and streamers on Tuesday won an early battle in a copyright fight with TickBox. A California federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the streaming device manufacturer to pause further potential infringement while the litigation plays out. 

Universal, Columbia, Disney, 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., Amazon and Netflix in October sued TickBox, claiming the company's hardware allows mass infringement of their copyrighted works — including access to titles that weren't yet available for legitimate in-home viewing.

U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction that orders TickBox to maintain certain changes it made to its user interface and advertising after the studios sued.

Fitzgerald weighed the studios' likelihood of success on the merits of the claim, analyzing the device-maker's argument that it shouldn't be liable for the third-party conduct. TickBox argues it only offers hardware, on which users can "voluntarily install legitimate or illegitimate software," and that access to the infringing content came from downloadable "themes" that it didn't create. The court wasn't persuaded.

"TickBox obviously has not 'caused' third parties to broadcast Plaintiffs’ (or others’) copyrighted works over the internet, at least in any direct sense," writes Fitzgerald. "But TickBox, through the Device, has delivered to those third parties viewers they would not otherwise have had, broadening those third parties’ audiences and the scope of their infringement. TickBox may be held responsible for the instances of infringement that would not have otherwise occurred in the absence of the Device."

Fitzgerald also presented a series of technical questions, including whether TickBox has the ability to issue a software update that would reset devices and remove offending themes and add-ons that had been previously downloaded by customers. He wants the parties to work together with those questions in mind to file a stipulated preliminary injunction order that would replace this one by Feb. 7. If they can't reach an agreement, each side must submit its own proposed order by Feb. 12. (Read his full analysis below.)

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment, a coalition of entertainment companies dedicated to fighting piracy that spearheaded the litigation, issued a statement Tuesday in response to the decision: “This is an important step, particularly given the Court’s conclusion that the ACE members are likely to succeed on the merits of their case. We look forward to further developments in this case.”