Canadian ISPs Continue Quest To Bankrupt TVAddons, Site That Hosted Tons Of Legal Kodi Addons

from the crazy-stuff dept

A few years back we wrote about how various Canadian telcos had appeared to completely lose their minds over TVAddons, a Canadian site that hosted various software add-ons for Kodi (open source home theater software that was originally the Xbox Media Center or XBMC). Now, it is true that there's a thriving market in pirated content via Kodi boxes and the like, but TVAddons was just a site that hosted all sorts of add-ons, and most of them had nothing at all to do with infringing content. As we mentioned in our original article, out of over 1,500 add-ons, only 22 were found to involve infringing content. To put this in perspective, think of the VCR/Betamax in the early years, when Jack Valenti was insisting that it would be the "Boston Strangler" to the movie industry. Back then, a ton of the content being passed around on those tapes would likely be considered infringing -- in part because that was before the industry learned to embrace home video (which quickly became a huge moneymaker for Hollywood). But that was found legal because, as the Supreme Court noted, there were "substantial non-infringing uses" of the technology. It seems pretty damn clear that there are "substantial non-infringing uses" of Kodi add-ons as well, and especially of a platform like TVAddons, that was there just to host those add-ons -- and not to host any infringing content directly.

However, as we noted in that original piece, it seemed quite clear that the Canadian telcos were so hellbent on destroying TVAddons and its founder, Adam Lackman, that it didn't seem to care about any of this. They got a special "Anton Piller" order in Canada that allowed their own private investigators to search his home and take his stuff. While this was going on, Lackman called his lawyer, and the lawyers for the telcos literally ordered him to hang up and not talk to his lawyer. As we noted, this wasn't the police -- this was private companies ransacking a guy's house, because some people might possibly use some software that was hosted on his open platform for possibly infringing uses.

Years later, it's perhaps not surprising that these Canadian telcos -- namely Bell Canada, Rogers, Videotron and TVA -- appear to have no interest in letting this case end. They remain hellbent on destroying Lackman and the site. While Lackman initially won the first round of the case, in which a court noted that the Anton Piller order was clearly unlawful, he lost on appeal, and was told he needs to pay the legal fees of the giant telcos, even though no actual trial has taken place (all of this is on preliminary issues)

Lackman has now been left in the unenviable position of having to set up a GoFundMe just to try to raise enough to pay for the giant telcos legal fees, let alone continue the actual legal fight. The whole setup is ridiculous: giant companies (who never even sent a takedown notice to TV Addons) get to do a private raid, take all of his stuff (which was later recognized as against the law), block him from talking to his lawyer, and then bankrupt him through an ongoing legal process.

This kind of story, of course, is not unique. We've seen it play out in many different ways over the years, but it's particularly galling to see how it's playing out here.

Filed Under: adam lackman, addons, anton piller, canada, kodi
Companies: bell, rogers, tvaddons


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Sep 2019 @ 6:02pm

    Real or imagined infringement, which is actually illegal?

    There does not appear to be any depth that corporations will not go, even if they don't actually own the IP they are 'defending'. While RICO may not apply in Canada, there sure seems to be a collaboration to harm those that 'might' enable infringement. To those Canadian Telcos, what is actually to their detriment? They don't own any of the IP involved, do they?

    I have been using Kodi for many years, but I have never used it to stream any infringing sites. I do use it to view/hear my video/audio collection, but that has nothing to do with infringement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ewan (profile), 27 Sep 2019 @ 5:50am

      Re: Real or imagined infringement, which is actually illegal?

      Rogers Telecom and Rogers Wireless is owned by Rogers Communication who also own Rogers Media which owns Sportsnet.

      Bell Canada own Bell Canada Enterprises which in turn owns Bell media which owns CTV Television Network.

      Videotron is owned by Quebecor Inc. which also owns TVA Group which owns several TV and Film publishers.

      So while not necessarily directly, they all do own IP some of which is likely involved.

      Still doesn't make this all less than atrocious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 9:16am

      Re: Real or imagined infringement, which is actually illegal?

      There's a very annoying technicality in copyright law: someone who is merely a "licencee" of a work (and therefore not the legit creator) is free to launch these sort of suits if they hold exclusive "rights" to content on one particular territory.

      For instance, a Canada Computers store pays Microsoft for the right to resell Mickeysoft windows; that doesn't give them the entitlement to sue anyone who owns a pir8 copy of Windows.

      Conversely, Bell-owned CTV pays the NFL not only to let them show "the Big Game" but also to keep the big game off every other competing broadcaster in Canada, including the Canadian communities where CTV is shutting down analogue OTA transmitters instead of converting them to digital. At that point, they can go around suing people for copyright for that game... even if Bell doesn't themselves know how to play NFL football.

      Of course, if Bell is involved, the reality is even worse. Bell interfered in the renegotiation of a key international trade agreement (NAFTA) by pressuring the NFL to pressure the Trump administration to force a term into the new "agreeement" forcing Canada to allow Bell-owned CTV to paste its signal over top of that of the originating US network's affiliates for the big game.

      No private company should have the power to dictate to governments in this manner. If the government were doing its job, broadcasters would be required to uphold the public interest and a stunt like this would get their licence pulled. Sadly, the tail wags the dog.

      The current scandal in which Canada's prime minister is at immediate risk of losing his House majority in the current elections for changing the laws to attempt to let a major engineering company off the hook with a slap-on-the-wrist fine for corrupt dealing in Libya is mild compared to what Canadian telecoms get away with... but, because they control the media, no one speaks out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 9:35am

      Re: Real or imagined infringement, which is actually illegal?

      The CBC threw all of its terrestrial TV affiliate stations (which carried their programming, often since the 1950s, but which the network does not own) under the bus in 2015. They shut down all of the CBC/Radio-Canada owned rebroadcasters (full-power transmitters in little villages like London, Ontario that don't have a CBC studio) in August 2012, in many cases taking educational broadcaster TV Ontario (which used the Radio-Canada sites) down with them.

      I had tried buying one of those Android boxes and using Kodi to see if I could get my CBC back... after all, my taxes are still paying to subsidise three networks (CBC/SRC, TVO) which I no longer receive over the air. It did find some programming. I haven't looked at this in a while, I've pretty much given up and just watch the US border station or turn the TV off to surf the web instead, but Kodi is a legit and useful product.

      There's no excuse for Bell and Rogers to crush it in this manner just because it competes with their existing overpriced pay-TV offerings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Ed U. Kashun, 26 Sep 2019 @ 8:29pm

    Pirates don't support even their cronies.

    While Lackman initially won the first round of the case, in which a court noted that the Anton Piller order was clearly unlawful, he lost on appeal,

    You still mis-characterize as usual! Actually, the appeal somewhat reprimanded the lower judge, but to be fair, appears blind-sided by allegations that were not borne out; NOT "clearly" sympathetic as you state:

    Continuing, the [appeals] Judge makes some pointed remarks concerning the execution of the Anton Piller order. In short, he found little wrong with the way things went ahead and also contradicted some of the claims and beliefs circulated in the earlier hearing.

    Citing the affidavit of an independent solicitor who monitored the order's execution, the Judge said that the order was explained to Lackman in plain language and he was informed of his right to remain silent. He was also told that he could refuse to answer questions other than those specified in the order.

    The Judge said that Lackman was allowed to have counsel present, "with whom he consulted throughout the execution of the order." There was nothing, the Judge said, that amounted to the "interrogation" alluded to in the earlier hearing.

    https://torrentfreak.com/tvaddons-suffers-big-setback-as-court-completely-overturns-earlier-ruling -180221/

    Lackman is a proven LIAR besides clear PIRATE and OBSTINATE. He is DOOMED and deserves it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2019 @ 8:57pm

      Re: Pirates don't support even their Russian cronies.

      You sound extra panicky today. I wonder why🤔

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2019 @ 9:08pm

      Re: Pirates don't support even their cronies.

      Bell needs to suffer the same fate in Canada that AT&T suffered stateside in 1982. They and Robbers, er, Rogers are a stranglehold duopoly that is doing immeasurable damage to Canadian consumers - who pay some of the most ridiculous, inflated prices anywhere in the G20. There's no real competition as they're both bad... and they own everything. One owns the landline phone, the other the landline cable. They run a duopoly on wireless telephony (Telus does nothing to fix this, as they run from the Bell site, and beyond that there are no MVNO's in Canada - just the same majors rebranded to pretend to be someone else). They're also operating a stranglehold on terrestrial TV, which they are systematically destroying outside of the largest cities, and a stranglehold on pay TV. There's no way to effectively speak out against them as they control the media, and the Canadian broadcast regulator (CRTC) is their lapdog because it's long been a dumping ground for patronage appointments - along with the Competition Bureau, another toothless joke. It's impossible for a new mobile entrant to succeed because the duopoly charges extortionate rates for roaming that would bankrupt anyone trying to break into the Canadian market.

      People say that MĂ©xico is bad because Televisa owns most of the terrestrial television and Azteca pretty much owns all of the rest - except for the educational channel? Canada is just as bad.

      The most disgusting part? There's an election currently in progress and this issue isn't even on the radar. The media is too busy speculating on whether Trudeau ever appeared in blackface - meanwhile the dirty hands that control Canada's media are conveniently out of sight.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 8:26am

        Re: Pirates don't support even their cronies.

        The elephant in the room isn't just that Bell, Rogers and TVA/Vidéotron are hiding behind lawyers as cover for what is otherwise little better than a home invasion and robbery. That's problematic enough (an Anton Pillar order is supposed to preserve evidence, it's not supposed to be a means to steal passwords and abuse them to take down entire websites).

        The elephant in the room is that Bell, Rogers et al. colluded with each other to do this. Governments have been lying to Canadians for years by claiming that there's adequate competition because Bell competes with Rogers. That's not competition, that's duopoly... and this particular stunt makes this crystal clear that these two are less like competitors and more like partners in crime or conspirators - who will not tolerate one bit of outside competition.

        It's not the first time. When direct broadcast satellites became common around the turn of the millennium, making it blatant that Canadians really don't need Bell and Rogers as middlemen between them and the originating US broadcaster, Bell took one small business (Can-Am Satellites in BC) all the way to the Supreme Court, pretty much bankrupting them in legal fees before any justice was done. Can-Am wasn't engaged in pirate decryption of any kind... they were merely reselling unmodified US DreckTV receivers in Canada. Now, with IPTV, it seems to be more of the same. Half of the content on Netflix US was missing from Netflix Canada because companies like Hell and Robbers, sorry, Bell and Rogers were paying studios like Sony for "exclusivity". Sony would then lean on Netflix to block VPNs (as was revealed in North Koreans hacks and leaks made in retaliation for films "The Interview") and Netflix would cave and victimise Canadian consumers by charging full price for a subscription with much of the content missing. The attack on Kodi is really just more of the same, but in open collusion with companies which Bell really wanted us to believe were actual rivals and competitors - and not merely accomplices.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 12:31am

      Re:

      oot of ze blue, he hates it ven ze due process, she is enforced, eh?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 12:56am

    "They got a special "Anton Piller" order in Canada that allowed their own private investigators to search his home and take his stuff."

    Americans need tighter gun control laws so they can experience this too!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 27 Sep 2019 @ 5:52am

      Re:

      Americans need tighter gun control laws so they can experience this too!

      Hilarious that you think your handgun is going to prevent the police from serving a warrant, cowboy!!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 7:49am

        Re: Re:

        While I don't share OPs sentiment, I do find it hilarious that you focus on only one individual maintaining their gun rights.

        The whole point of this line of argument is that if the Government abuses basic rights like this event in Canada would be if it happened in the US too many times they would wind up facing off against far more "handguns" than their combined military force would stand any chance against.

        And yes, that is a good thing. Not that it should ever come to that. Only that having the possibility that we could react if things really got that bad is enough to ward off stripping of our basic rights.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 8:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Without being organised, lots of people with guns are not going to achieve much, and most people capable and determined enough to organize an armed uprising against a government are no better than those already in power.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 9:04am

            Sadly, taking the 2nd won't help

            The problem isn't a lack of guns... the US has lots of guns, yet they have the Ajit Pai FCC that seems to be the butt of nearly every complaint in every article on this site.

            The problem is that these few large companies control the media. Bell owns not just a landline monopoly, but also the largest private TV network in Canada, the largest direct-broadcast satellite operator and a long list of speciality channels. Rogers is just as bad, and in the west Shaw and Telus are another equally evil duopoly.

            At that point, politicians don't dare speak out against these companies, as they can crush a candidacy. It's been going on for years in countries like MĂ©xico (where Televisa owns everything) and allowing concentration of ownership to this scale is making third-world Canuckistan rapidly just as bad.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2019 @ 5:55am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Without being organised, lots of people with guns are not going to achieve much, and most people capable and determined enough to organize an armed uprising against a government are no better than those already in power.

            Like those uppity colonists.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 4:54pm

        Re: Re:

        Hilarious that you think private investigators, hired by a company, is equivalent to the police.

        You really are a fucking idiot.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 8:48am

    Canadian ISPs?

    I'm not sure why the title to this piece merely identifies Bell and Rogers as "Canadian ISPs"?

    While the claim is technically true, they are something much worse. They do qualify as ISP's because they control the landline telephone and cable TV duopoly, therefore by extension the broadband Internet duopoly... but it gets worse.

    The telephone and cable companies also control the Canadian direct-broadcast satellite duopoly (Expressvu is Bell, StarChoice is Shaw) - and the Shaw satellite feeds only were created initially so that Shaw could sell them to other cable companies in other Canadian regions.

    They also control the terrestrial networks, with the exception of public non-educational CBC/Radio-Canada (which was taken off the air OTA in 2012 in every community where CBC lacks an originating studio... including places like London, Ontario). Bell owns CTV and is in the process of taking over Télévision Quatre-Saisons (V). Rogers owns CITY-TV.

    They also control the pay-TV speciality channels. They have enough power to crush independents; for instance the gay channel "Pridevision" split into two - "Out TV" (community programming) and "Pridevision Hard" (pornography). The only way at that time to get pay TV lawfully in western Canada was Expressvu (Bell), Starchoice (Shaw) or cable (also Shaw) - so if Bell didn't want "Pridevision Hard" for business reasons (which were never specified, but could well be that they compete with Bell's own overpriced PPV porn) and Shaw didn't like that "Pridevision Hard" showed gay porn, that channel was blocked from western Canada pretty much entirely. And that's a Canadian independent broadcaster.

    You don't want to know what Canadian cable companies do to the signals of US OTA border stations, such as WPBS-TV. They're not only under no obligation to carry the station at all, they're not even required to notify the station that they've been dropped. The extra subchannels which were introduced when US OTA went digital are routinely deleted. LPTV stations are routinely deleted - with the one possible exception being some really weird NBC station in Boston which used the WGBX full-power PBS transmitter and then used a low-power station's commercial licence, then claimed to be "channel sharing" to sell spectrum back to the government so it could be sold to US mobile telephone companies. That's likely the only US LPTV that made it past Canada's ridiculous broadcast regulator and onto the screens of Canadian pay-TV subscribers.

    An antenna in the 1000 Islands region finds ten subchannels from three full-power stations. Canadian cable companies delete all but the three "main" subchannels, centre-cut and downconvert what's left, then engage in "signal substitution" where a Canadian station will broadcast content which duplicates existing US programming and the cable companies will paste the Canadian programming over that of the originating US network's affiliate.

    Canada also abuses its tax code to ensure that neither paid adverts by Canadian businesses on US stations (as business expenses) or PBS "membership" donations (as charity) can be deductible... yet paid ads on US-owned sites like Google are tax-deductible (and the government may even buy a few themselves).

    In other words, Canada wants the US border station to fail, even if what they're doing in tampering with the WPBS-TV signal is little better than stealing from an in-region educational charity. You want that in HD? Tough luck, the local station is downconverted, but we have this DĂ©troit station... and Rogers in Ottawa and London tried to drop WPBS and WQLN entirely in 2009, only to partially back off in response to massive public backlash. There's still no WPBS in HD unless you buy a Channel Master and aim it stateside.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 9:53am

      Re: Canadian ISPs?

      Calling them "Canadian broadcasters" would make for a more accurate headline, since these actions are done in their capacity as broadcasters rather than ISPs. TVA isn't even an ISP or telco from what I can tell—just a broadcaster.

      Canada also abuses its tax code to ensure that neither paid adverts by Canadian businesses on US stations (as business expenses) or PBS "membership" donations (as charity) can be deductible...

      What does this have to do with anything, and how's it abuse to enforce tax code as specified by law? As with donations to any foreign charity, they're tax-deductible in Canada if they've registered and have received a recent donation from the Crown. PBS isn't on the list, but only 4 charities are.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2019 @ 5:08pm

        Re: Canadian ISPs?

        TVA is a broadcaster. It's owned by Québécor, which also owns cable company Vidéotron.

        Vidéotron likely is an ISP, even if TVA is not.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Sep 2019 @ 12:47pm

    Not even trying to hide the rot

    While this was going on, Lackman called his lawyer, and the lawyers for the telcos literally ordered him to hang up and not talk to his lawyer. As we noted, this wasn't the police -- this was private companies ransacking a guy's house, because some people might possibly use some software that was hosted on his open platform for possibly infringing uses.

    The fact that private companies can pull something like that and not only get the clear but force their victim to pay their legal fees for tossing a guy's house nicely demonstrates just how utterly corrupt the system in place is. At that point you might as well have the judges and legislators wearing nice large 'Owned By...' tags around their necks, as it would only be slightly more blatant than the current situation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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