Five men were convicted for running Jetflicks, a low-cost streaming service that amassed more TV shows than Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime combined

0
30
five-men-were-convicted-for-running-jetflicks,-a-low-cost-streaming-service-that-amassed-more-tv-shows-than-netflix,-hulu,-and-amazon-prime-combined
Five men were convicted for running Jetflicks, a low-cost streaming service that amassed more TV shows than Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime combined

If a streaming service sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In the case of Jetflicks, it was too good to be legal.

A federal jury in Las Vegas convicted five male defendants for their roles in a complex scheme of scraping popular television shows and award-winning movies from pirate sites and bundling them into a streaming service called Jetflicks, said the Department of Justice in a statement on Thursday. According to the indictment, Jetflicks operated as a subscription-based streamer that allowed users to watch and download copyrighted TV shows and movies without permission from the copyright owners.

“The defendants operated Jetflicks, an illicit streaming service they used to distribute hundreds of thousands of stolen television episodes,” said principal deputy assistant attorney general Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, in a statement. According to the DOJ, the group ripped off thousands of copyrighted television episodes generating a mass of content larger than “the combined catalogues of Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, and Amazon Prime.” 

For a $10 monthly subscription fee, users could watch shows on multiple devices and platforms within days of new episodes appearing on legitimate services and channels, authorities said.

“The defendants ran a platform that automated the theft of TV shows and distributed the stolen content to subscribers,” said assistant director in charge David Sundberg of the FBI Washington Field Office, in a statement.

The five are Kristopher Dallmann, Douglas Courson, Felipe Garcia, Jared Jaurequi, and Peter Huber. The indictment states that the cadre obtained content from pirate sites such as SickRage, (also known as SickChill), Sick Beard, SABnzbd, and TheTVDB and offered it up in one place to subscribers. At one point, Jetflicks claimed to have more than 37,000 paid users and 183,200 episodes of television. Authorities estimated the monetary harm to program owners to be in the millions.

Like a legitimate business, Jetflicks eventually ran into problems, such as subscribers sharing logins and passwords, authorities alleged in the indictment. Officials also said the group tried to disguise the site as an entertainment service for aircraft flyers after it faced inbound demands to remove unlicensed content.  

“When complaints from copyright holders and problems with payment service providers threatened to topple the illicit multimillion-dollar enterprise, the defendants tried to disguise Jetflicks as an aviation entertainment company,” noted Sundberg.

And much like in the legitimate business world, about seven years after Jetflicks started, one member of the group broke away to launch a new, competing endeavor, officials said.  

Darryl Julius Polo, aka djppimp, launched iStreamItAll, which allowed users to stream and download TV and movies, the indictment states. iStreamItAll (ISIA) subscription plans had a monthly fee of $19.99, plus quarterly, semi-annual, and yearly options. Similar to Jetflicks, ISIA did not have permission to provide content, officials said. Polo, a computer programmer, pleaded guilty in 2019 to one count of conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement and one count of criminal copyright infringement. Polo was sentenced to 4.75 years in prison and ordered to pay $1 million.  

Jetflicks also had its own org structure, authorities alleged. Dallman ran operations while Courson and Jaurequi assisted with management involving strategic decisions, hiring, and dealing with vendors and payment processors. Programming and coding was handled by Dallman, Polo, and Huber, who wrote and revised computer scripts for the website and mobile applications. That group also handled web design, customer interface, and technical assistance, authorities said.

In 2016, an undercover agent streamed an episode of the science fiction show The OA, which aired on Netflix, according to the indictment. The agent also downloaded two episodes of a dystopian series, 12 Monkeys, which caused the distribution of the episodes without permission from the copyright owner, authorities wrote.

Courson, Garcia, Jaurequi, and Huber each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and Dallmann faces a maximum penalty of 48 years in prison, according to the DOJ. A sentencing date has not been set.

Subscribe to the Fortune Next to Lead newsletter to get weekly strategies on how to make it to the corner office. Sign up for free before it launches on June 24, 2024.