Amazon, Netflix and several major Hollywood studios are all suing Set TV, a seemingly too-good-to-be-true streaming service that offers 500 channels for $US20 ($26) per month. The copyright suit seeks $US150,000 ($195,478) per work infringed, and it sure looks like they have a case against the cord-cutting company.
Image: Set TV
TorrentFreak reports that the lawsuit for mass infringement of copyrights was filed in a California district court on Friday by the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a consortium of media companies that aims to combat piracy.
Streaming has become the most popular form of piracy, and it appears that Set TV may be a purveyor of what's known as black market IPTV.
Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is just TV streamed over the tubes of the internet, but the term has come to reference services that fall somewhere between a Kodi box and just paying for Netflix over a Roku.
A Kodi set-top box is not in itself illegal, but people can purchase "fully-loaded" Kodi boxes from third parties that come with all the software they need for convenient streaming of pirated media. Anyone can add on software to the Kodi themselves as well, but they can expect to spend a good bit of time troubleshooting.
Illicit IPTV services attempt to offer an easier-to-use service for a monthly fee. In many cases, a provider is just livestreaming their legitimate pay TV network and each channel is presented in Electronic Program Guide format (EPG), simulating an average pay TV experience.
Set TV comes pretty close to looking legitimate, and for the record, we don't know that it's breaking US law. Its website looks very similar to a comparable streaming service such as DirectTV Now, the branding is relatively slick, and it even has a commercial that would be right at home in the middle of afternoon TV programming:
The pitch is that you get hundreds of major US television channels, including premium stations HBO and Showtime, for just $US20 ($26) a month. There's an app available for Android and desktop devices, and Set TV sells its own box. If that didn't set your alarm bells off, the suit additionally claims that Set TV lets users stream movies (including ones that are still in theatres) through third parties.
"Defendants promote the use of Setvnow for overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, infringing purposes, and that is how their customers use Setvnow," the lawsuit alleges.
Last December, Flixed identified Jason Labossiere as Set TV's "managing member" based on a Better Business Bureau listing where it currently has an "F" rating. Lobossiere was previously part of a different shady set-top box company called Exoon, according to AndroidPolice. Users had a very bad experience with Exoon, and checking out the comments on the BBB page, they don't seem to be particularly happy with Set TV.
Users complain that it takes multiple attempts to cancel the service, that its affiliate program to reward people for promotion doesn't pay, and that the streams often just hang in buffering. One customer said that when they spoke to customer service on the phone, they "heard a baby crying or whimpering" on the other end of the line.
We've reached out to Set TV for a statement and to ask if it intends to fight the lawsuit, but did not receive an immediate reply. ACE has previously sued the Kodi box retailer TickBox. A judge granted an initial injunction against TickBox, ordering it to remove links to piracy software, but the copyright claims have not yet been ruled upon. The suit against Set TV asks for an injunction that shuts down the service and impounds all pre-loaded devices. Of course, the $US150,000 ($195,478) in damages per infringed work would likely be the really scary penalty.