Feb 8, 2023Legal
Florida Courts Order ATN Service Sellers to Pay $32 Million for Copyright Infringement

The International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP) is a consortium of leading global and US content creators, broadcasters, and distributors aimed at preventing unauthorized streaming and distribution of TV content in the US. IBCAP, in collaboration with NAGRA, recently announced that a federal district court and a bankruptcy court in the Middle District of Florida have ordered the US-based sellers of the ATN service, Hisham Manse Ibrahem and Nezar Saeed Hammo to pay $32.1 million in combined damages for copyright infringement. Alfa TV Inc. and its Sweden-based owner and operator, Haitham Mansi, were also found liable. As a result of the court order, the ATN service can no longer offer IBCAP-protected channels in the US.

Ibrahem and Mansi started ElafnetTV in 2010 appointing Hammo as sales and marketing manager, and Advanced TV Network (ATN) was established in Sweden in same year. According to the lawsuit filed by plaintiff DISH Network LLC, member of IBCAP, Nordic Content Protection, an anti-piracy group for Nordic broadcasters discovered that ATN was offering its customers access to illegal pirate streams, primarily from the Middle East and Turkey. In 2016, the owners were found guilty of criminal copyright infringement and ordered by Swedish authorities in 2018 to pay $24 million each as well as serve prison sentences ranging from one to 2 and a half years. Despite this, ATN continued to be distributed in the United States.

DISH is a major pay-TV provider in the US, delivering copyrighted content to millions of subscribers across the country. With a vast range of international TV channels, DISH is one of the largest providers of such channels in the US, offering over 400 channels in 27 different languages. DISH acquired the rights for the international channels it distributes on its platforms from channel owners and their agents through contracts and purchases. Around March 2018, a DISH investigator who had previously registered his email with ElafnetTV after making purchases from the defendants in 2017 and 2018 received an email from ATN Media Group. The email encouraged the investigator to "TRY OUR SERVICE FOR FREE" and highlighted the presence of "Amazing Arabic content in your ATN box!" The email also featured logos for MBC, MBC Drama, and MBC Masr. The DISH investigator reached out to ATN to inquire about obtaining the channels advertised, and ATN informed him that he had to get in touch with ElafnetTV. They made it possible for him to access a new section on their TV box, containing channels that were offered exclusively by DISH for US audiences. Subsequently, DISH sent several notices of infringement as well as filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the individuals as well as Alfa TV Inc.

One of the defendants filed for bankruptcy, but both the bankruptcy court and the district court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, DISH. They enjoined the defendants from further streaming any protected channels or content and awarded DISH $32.1 million in damages.


For DISH: Stephen M. Ferguson and David M. Korn of Hagan Noll & Boyle, LLC and James A. Boatman , Jr. of The Boatman Law Firm, PA

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