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$32m copyright damages award

February 8, 2023

By Colin Mann

In related cases, a federal district court and a federal bankruptcy court, both in Florida, have ordered Hisham Manse Ibrahem and Nezar Saeed Hammo, US-based sellers of the pirate service ATN, to pay $32,100,000 (€29.8m) in combined damages for wilful copyright infringement. The cases were filed by DISH Network, a member of trade body the International Broadcaster Coalition Against Piracy (IBCAP).

Both individuals were selling the ATN service through a company known as Alfa TV, which was also found liable, along with Haitham Mansi, a Sweden-based owner and operator of Alfa TV. Notably, the ATN service is no longer carrying IBCAP-protected channels in the US.

Hammo filed bankruptcy during the pendency of the district court action in an attempt to avoid liability. An adversary complaint was filed against him to determine the non-dischargeability of the debt against him. As with similar actions against wilful copyright infringers, the bankruptcy court ruled the judgment non-dischargeable, again showing that infringers cannot use the bankruptcy system to avoid liability for wilful copyright infringement.

Both courts ordered the defendants to cease “distributing, providing, selling, or promoting any product, or service, including ATN set-top boxes, apps, service subscriptions, and any other set-top boxes and television subscription services, that reproduce, copy, transmit, stream, distribute, or publicly perform any of the [IBCAP Member Channels at issue] or any of the programming that comprises or appears on any of the [IBCAP Member Channels at issue] in the United States”.

“Yet again, the federal courts have levied huge financial awards against individuals in the US who were selling pirate services,” said Chris Kuelling, executive director of IBCAP. “This case is another example of why it is not worth the risk for retailers to sell pirate services. It is also important to point out that sellers of pirate services cannot use bankruptcy to shield against their illegal activities. Here, as with other wilful copyright infringers who have sought to use bankruptcy to avoid judgments, the bankruptcy court concluded that the judgment against Mr. Hammo is not discharged by the bankruptcy.”

The evidence for this case was collected by IBCAP’s anti-piracy lab in coordination with content protection specialist NAGRA.

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