On any other day, they’re rivals, but in a massive case of copyright infringement, Disney, Universal, and Netflix have joined forces, ultimately securing a multi-million dollar judgment against an operator of two illegal streaming sites.
In December 2021, three top studios sued Dwayne Johnson for copyright infringement, alleging he had been operating streaming sites illegally, as they featured content from Disney, Universal, and Netflix, that was protected by U. S. copyright laws. Warner Bros., Paramount, and Apple later joined the suit as well.
RELATED: Despite an Increase in Subscriptions, Disney+ Has Yet to Be Profitable
RELATED: Disney Reportedly in Talks to Acquire “Harry Potter” Franchise from Warner Bros. Entertainment
In the complaint, the extent of piracy was described as “massive,” as Johnson (no relation to the actor) allegedly operated two streaming services–AllAccessTV (AATV) and Quality Restreams. The services reportedly “sold subscriptions to copyrighted movies and TV shows — including the Harry Potter and Jurassic Park movies as well as The Office — through thousands of live channels and video-on-demand offerings. The live channel feed allowed users to access major networks like HBO, Cinemax, and NBC. Consumers could download the platforms on their devices.”
RELATED: Disney, Universal Actor Reveals His Recent Battle with Stage III Cancer
The studios and Johnson came to an agreement, resolving the suit with a deal that places an injunction against Johnson, effectively barring him from operating any service that gives users access to pirated titles, according to documents filed in court on March 27, 2023.
The suit and agreement are more examples of the recent uptick in the number of production companies that are taking legal action against entities and individuals for copyright violations that result from the illegal streaming of copyrighted content, such as movies, series, and other streamable content.
RELATED: Disney’s Losing Its Rights to Mickey Mouse, and That’s Not the Weirdest Part of the Story
Customers who subscribed to Johnson’s two streaming platforms enjoyed monthly plans for $25 per month (base plan). Video-on-demand (VOD) services could be added for an additional $15 per month. The suit brought against Johnson alleged that he knew that his actions were illegal in nature. The complaint mentioned Johnson’s “concerted efforts to conceal the unlawful enterprise” and alleged that Johnson attempted to hide his illegal activities by using a website that had the appearance of selling VPN software. In reality, the site was used to sell monthly streaming subscriptions to customers.
Under U. S. copyright laws, if the infringement is intentional, the guilty party can be liable for up to $150,000 per work (in this case, movie, episode, etc.) that is used illegally. According to court documents, Johnson allegedly generated annual revenue of approximately $3 million from AATV alone.