The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment stopped illegal pirate streaming website Area 51 in summer 2020. An agreement was made that Area 51 would not be able to launch new copyright infringing websites. Amazon, Netflix, and several other prominent Hollywood studios are suing to claim that Jason Tusa, a serial copyright infringement, violated the settlement agreement regarding the closure of Area 51.
Amazon, Netflix, Paramount, and studios such as Warner Brothers and Universal, Sony, Columbia, and Disney filed a vast copyright infringement/breach of contract lawsuit on July 6, 2021. It alleges that Tusa changed his name and rebuilt his streaming service platform three times more in the months following Area 51’s shutdown. Singularity Media, Digital Unicorn Media, and Tusa’s latest streaming venture, Altered Carbon, are some of these rebranded platforms. Every new iteration has taken advantage of the copyrighted works both of studios or networks, and there are hundreds of other titles that have been allegedly infringed.
The lawsuit states that Tusa’s business model was simple. He charges a small subscription fee, most recently to Altered Carbon. His subscribers receive an internet protocol television service (IPTV). This service includes content from major broadcast networks, such as A.B.C., C.B.S., and Fox. It also offers cable channels like SyFy, U.S.A. Network and premium channels HBO and Showtime. Altered Carbon apps are available to subscribers that can be downloaded onto mobile devices, smart T.V.s, and computers. They also have access via a website portal. Tusa doesn’t have to pay plaintiffs any licensing fees because none of the content has been appropriately licensed. The plaintiffs claim that Tusa has an unfair advantage over other competitors. Plaintiffs contend that Tusa was aware of his lack of licenses to distribute these works. Tusa has even signed a formal agreement to cease this conduct in the future. But, Altered Carbon is a clear example of how his infringing acts have knowingly continued, despite no intention to stop.
Tusa seems not to be afraid of streaming illegal content on a large scale. Area 51 received nearly three million visits in its last year. Altered Carbon is under threat, so the plaintiffs filed this latest lawsuit to stop him from repeating his illegal acts.
Amazon, Netflix, and the other major Hollywood studios find out that Tusa is behind Altered Carbon. First, the Altered Carbon app uses a similar logo to the Digital Unicorn Media service (Tusa’s earlier IPTV platforms). A complaint states that Altered Carbon posts messages about the service via Telegram. Tusa refers personally to Altered Carbon in the Telegram message platform. The group profile picture is also a unique illustration that shows a serpent, which matches the image of a similar serpent in photos posted to Tusa’s social media accounts.
According to the lawsuit, Tusa’s actions can be described as a “well-practiced pattern of fraud.” Previous cases seeking the cessation of Tusa’s illegal streaming services have seen him cooperate with the court and force it to shut down. Tusa signed an agreement in which he stated that he would “forever stop infringing” his conduct. Yet, despite having agreed to cease any further infringing services, he has managed to rebrand and relocate the infringing business three times in just a few months.
Tusa now faces severe consequences for his actions. Tusa is now being sued personally for direct copyright violation, contributing materially and knowingly to copyright infringement, intentional copyright abuse, breach of contract, and copyright infringement. Amazon, Netflix, and Hollywood studios demand that Tusa’s streaming services be shut down immediately and permanently. The studios want Altered Carbon domains to be given to them. They also request that Tusa’s hardware and documents related to the infringement be impounded. The consequences of his streaming business could be severe. Tusa could face statutory damages up to $150,000 for each infringed piece of work. There are approximately 100 works in the suit, totaling $15 million. The plaintiffs may also identify other works after discovery.
Copyright infringement can be a clear violation. These major entertainment industry players have the legal fortitude to bring these violations to an abrupt halt. In 2018’s case, Set TV, Disney, Sony, and Netflix, many of those same plaintiffs sued Tusa for copyright violation. A $40 million settlement was reached by another group of entertainment titans like Paramount and Netflix against streaming service Crystal Clear Media.
Jason Tusa is a serial mass violator, as his history with unlicensed streaming services and subsequent litigation proves. Despite an agreement in writing to cease launching these services, Tusa has created Altered Carbon and continues to exploit copyrighted work. An influential group of entertainment industry giants will confront him to ensure he is stopped. Likely, there won’t be any settlement due to the facts of the case. But, if the allegations against Tusa are true, this civil lawsuit will not stop him. A criminal investigation for copyright violation under 18 U.S.C. may be his only option. Section 2319 carries a five-year sentence.
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