Last year, media conglomerate ABS-CBN took the popular pirate streaming site FMovies to court in the United States.
FMovies is one of several streaming sites that has grown explosively over the past year. It offers tens of thousands of mainstream movies and TV-shows to an audience of millions of people.
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the media company branded FMovies as a classic pirate site, offering unauthorized streams of content they own.
Despite facing hefty damages, FMovies’ operators didn’t defend themselves. Several months passed without any response from FMovies in court, which prompted the copyright media company to move ahead and file for a default judgment.
This week District Court Judge Otis D. Wright II issued his verdict, which doesn’t offer much good news for the streaming site.
Without evidence to the contrary, the Judge went along with ABS-CBN’s assessment that FMovies’ operators used the company’s trademarks and copyrighted works to draw in more visitors, generating a healthy profit through advertising.
In total, FMovies was found guilty on six counts; federal trademark infringement, false designation of origin, direct copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, unfair competition and false advertising.
Judge Wright’s order compels FMovies’ operators to pay the requested $30,000 in statutory copyright infringement damages for seven works, as well as $7,200 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
“Defendants shall pay ABS-CBN Two Hundred Eighteen Thousand Two Hundred Dollars ($218,200) in attorneys’ fees, costs, and statutory damages for Defendants’ infringement of Plaintiffs’ copyrights,” the judgment (pdf) reads.
The media conglomerate was also granted a preliminary injunction, which forbids FMovies from infringing ABS-CBN’s trademarks and copyrights going forward. In addition, ABS-CBN can also take over the FMovies.to domain name, according to the default judgment.
At the time of writing, Fmovies is still operational from the .to and .se domain names, but that may change in the near future, if the court order is enforced.
With a user base of millions of people, FMovies.to is by far the largest movie streaming site that has ever been targeted in a U.S. Court. With this in mind, it’s somewhat surprising that ABS-CBN ‘only’ requested $210,000 in statutory damages.
In a similar default judgment ABS-CBN requested two years ago, a U.S. federal court in Oregon ordered the operator of several tiny streaming sites to pay $10 million in damages to the company.
Then again, the FMovies operators have thus far remained in the shadows, so it’s unlikely that any damages will ever be paid.