Grand Jury Indicts 8 in Illegal Streaming Subscription Service Scheme
Defendants allegedly distributed content to Jetflicks and iStreamItAll subscribers without obtaining authorization from copyright owners.
Last week a federal grand jury indicted eight people in an illegal TV and movie streaming service scheme, following an FBI investigation. The indictment charged eight people who allegedly conspired to violate federal copyright law through the creation of two of the largest unauthorized streaming services in the U.S. – Jetflicks and iStreamItAll. As a result of this scheme, TV and movie copyright owners have lost millions of dollars from streamed and illegally downloaded content, said the Department of Justice in an August 27 news release.
The indicted individuals (Kristopher Lee Dallmann, 36; Darryl Julius Polo, aka djppimp, 36; Douglas M. Courson, 59; Felipe Garcia, 37; Jared Edward Jaurequi, aka Jared Edwards, 38; Peter H. Huber, 61; Yoany Vaillant, aka Yoany Vaillant Fajardo, 38; and Luis Angel Villarino, 40) allegedly ran a Las Vegas-based streaming service called Jetflicks that let subscribers stream and download copyrighted TV programs without the copyright owners’ consent.
The defendants allegedly reproduced tens of thousands of copyrighted TV episodes without permission and distributed those programs to tens of thousands of paying subscribers in the U.S. The number of illegally obtained episodes could be as high as 183,200, said the DOJ.
One of the defendants – Darryl Julius Polo – left Jetflicks to start a competing streaming service – iStreamItAll (ISIA) that boasted more than 115,000 different TV episodes and 10,500 movies. The content was allegedly obtained illegally and offered to subscribers for a monthly. Both services allowed subscribers to stream content online as well as on different devices (smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, etc.) and platforms. Jetflicks offered TV programs, while iStreamItAll offered TV and movies.
"The two services allegedly offered more television programs and movies than legitimate streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Vudu and Amazon Prime Video," the Justice Department.
The grand jury also charged Dallman with two counts of criminal copyright infringement by reproduction or distribution, two counts of criminal copyright by public performance and four counts of money laundering. Polo was with two counts of criminal copyright infringement by distributing a copyrighted work being prepared for commercial distribution, two counts of criminal copyright infringement by reproduction or distribution, two counts of criminal copyright infringement by public performance and four counts of money laundering.
The indictment alleges that Jetflicks got the TV episodes from different pirate websites including The Pirate Bay, RARBG and Torrentz. The defendants allegedly used automated computer scripts to scour the pirate websites for the latest content, then downloaded, processed and stored that content to make it available to subscribers. Through this method, the streaming services were sometimes able to offer movies before they were even made available outside of movie theaters. Polo is believed to be a part of the programming team that built Jetflicks and later iStreamItAll.
The Department of Justice said the charges and allegations in the indictment are “merely accusations.” The defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty. Senior Counsel Matthew A. Lamberti of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander P. Berrang of the Eastern District of Virginia and will prosecute the case.
Wow – this is a big deal! Legitimate streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video go to great lengths to negotiate for the proper licensing of content. Content licensing is a large part of their content acquisition budgets, so they must be happy to see those who took shortcuts called out for their alleged illegal behavior. The question is what the damage is and how can copyright owners prevent this from happening in the future. Stealing intellectual property – including copyrighted material – is a crime. If the defendants are found guilty, the punishment and penalties are likely to be significant, setting an example for anyone else who hopes to take such a shortcut in the future.