Super Channel has asked Alberta’s superior court to block the sale of digital set-top boxes that it alleges are being used to steal its programming.
Allarco Entertainment 2008 Inc., the Edmonton-based media company that owns and operates the premium cable and satellite TV channel, alleges several big-box retailers have been selling streaming devices programmed to pirate television content, including Super Channel’s.
The company has filed for an injunction that would order Staples Canada ULC, Best Buy Canada Ltd., London Drugs Ltd. and Canada Computers Inc. to stop selling the devices immediately. The case will be heard Tuesday.
“The only reason why people buy these boxes is to steal content,” Allarco president and chief executive officer Donald McDonald said in an interview. Super Channel has exclusive Canadian rights to shows such as The Oath and Swedish Dicks.
It’s not the first time a broadcaster has turned to the courts over piracy issues. Super Channel filed a copyright lawsuit over this issue in 2019; it is still pending. And in 2016, BCE Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Quebecor Inc.’s Videotron Ltd. teamed up to take legal action against five manufacturers of digital set-top boxes that came preloaded with applications that could be used to access copyright-protected content.
Super Channel alleges in its recent court filing that the retailers’ staff “advise, educate, encourage, induce, enable, coach or direct their customers” to buy the devices so they can pirate its content, thus harming Canada’s broadcasting and entertainment industries. None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Best Buy and London Drugs have denied the allegations in court documents. A spokesperson for London Drugs told The Globe and Mail the company will defend itself vigorously against Super Channel’s claims.
“London Drugs would never intentionally take or condone any action with an intent to infringe any intellectual property rights,” the company said in a statement.
“London Drugs has always respected the rights of content creators and holders of copyright in all forms. We sell products and provide services for many parties engaged in content creation and distribution and recognize and fully support their right to fair compensation.”
Staples and Best Buy declined to comment, while Canada Computers could not be reached.
Super Channel also says many of the devices, which are primarily Android boxes manufactured in China, come preloaded with malware that can access users’ home networks and their personal data, leaving them open to cyberattacks.
“These devices are dangerous to your home network, dangerous to your personal data and could end up costing you a lot more money in the end,” Mr. McDonald said. He added it is difficult to quantify the losses from the sale of the devices, but he pointed out that piracy is not a “victimless crime” and costs Canadian jobs.
In late 2019, the Federal Court ordered internet service providers to block access to websites operated by the anonymous operators of Gold TV. The IPTV service offers access to content to which it has no rights, Bell Media Inc., Rogers Media Inc. and Groupe TVA Inc. argued in court documents.
Several experts called the Federal Court ruling precedent-setting. Internet provider TekSavvy Solutions Inc., which has appealed the ruling, called it an infringement on the free-speech rights of Canadian internet users. The appeal is to be heard this month.
In 2018, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission rejected an application by FairPlay Canada – a coalition of Canada’s biggest communications and media companies, production organizations, unions and movie theatres – to implement a site-blocking regime to address piracy. The CRTC said it did not have the jurisdiction to consider the proposal.
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