Eight people were charged by a federal grand jury with running two large-scale, illegal TV and movie streaming services, the Department of Justice said this week.
The services’ claim to fame was offering more content than Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Amazon Prime video. The operations resulted in millions of dollars of losses for television program and motion picture copyright owners, the DOJ said in a statement.
One of the services, “Jetflicks,” based in Las Vegas, distributed television programs to “tens of thousands of paid subscribers” in the U.S., the DOJ said. Jetflicks claimed to have more than 183,200 different television episodes.
Looking to parlay his Jetflicks experience into a new enterprise, one of the defendants created a competing site, iStreamItAll, which claimed to have over 115,000 TV programs and over 10,000 movies, the DOJ said.
iStreamItAll, also known as ISIA, stated publicly that it had more content than Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Amazon Prime, according to the indictment.
Sophisticated criminal enterprise
Both services were “specifically designed to work on many different types of devices, platforms and software,” the DOJ said. That included a variety of computer operating systems, smartphones, smart televisions, video game consoles, and set-top boxes, according to the DOJ.
And the defendants allegedly proved adept at scouring the global web for illegal content. Jetflicks allegedly obtained illegal TV content from pirate websites around the world, the indictment said. Specifically, the defendants grabbed content from some of the biggest torrent and Usenet sites where pirated content is available, including The Pirate Bay, RARBG and Torrentz, according to the DOJ.
This was often done using automated computer scripts in order to provide content to subscribers the day after the shows originally aired on television.
“The defendants allegedly used sophisticated computer code to scour global pirate sites for new illegal content to download, process and store the shows, and then make those episodes available on servers in the United States and Canada to Jetflicks subscribers for streaming and/or downloading,” the DOJ said.
A defendant who was part of the computer programming team that built Jetflicks and who later started iStreamItAll allegedly tapped many of the same automated tools used by Jetflicks and then made TV programs and movies available on servers to iStreamItAll subscribers.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are only accusations, the DOJ said, noting that the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.