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Mainstream retailers sell numerous digital TV boxes that come with media apps such as Netflix and YouTube installed. But some have emerged with preinstalled and configured apps to let users watch copyrighted content.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Two sellers of digital set-top boxes that have been adapted to include preloaded applications that give users cheap or free access to copyright-protected TV shows and movies are planning to appeal a temporary order blocking the sale of the boxes.

Constantin Kyritsis, a Montreal lawyer who now represents two of the five defendants in a case launched by BCE Inc., Videotron Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc., said Monday his clients have filed an appeal of an interim injunction that a judge of the Federal Court granted on June 1.

Many mainstream retailers sell digital set-top boxes that can be connected to television sets to stream online content. But in recent years, a number of independent businesses have begun selling adapted boxes on which they have pre-installed and configured a handful of apps that let users watch copyrighted content for little or no cost.

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BCE, Videotron and Rogers, the Canadian telecom and media companies that launched the court action in mid-May, said they invest significant sums of money to create, acquire and distribute content and the adapted boxes are violating their copyright and contributing to customers cutting cable subscriptions.

Mr. Kyritsis – who represents and WatchNSaveNow Inc. – said he doesn't believe the set-top box vendors are responsible for any "illegal copying."

"They're like the stores selling iPads, Apple TVs or computers, which can then be used for many kinds of uses, some of them potentially illegal, but many of them legal," he said in an e-mail Monday. "The vendor doesn't control or authorize what users do, or what software providers enable users to do. They're just selling the hardware, and there's no proof they're causing damage to anyone."

Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer of the Federal Court in Ottawa noted in a written ruling that the sellers of the adapted boxes make it "extremely easy" for users to access copyright-infringing content, and market the boxes as an alternative to pricey cable subscriptions.

"These boxes have several uses for consumers, some of which are perfectly legal and some which skirt around the fringes of copyright law. This is not the first time a new technology has been alleged to violate copyright law, nor will it be the last," Justice Tremblay-Lamer wrote.

"For the time being, I am satisfied that the plaintiffs have established a strong prima facie case of copyright infringement and that an injunction would prevent irreparable harm without unduly inconveniencing the defendants."

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