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Chinese Broadcaster Alleges Massive Copyright Theft — in the U.S.

Variety logo Variety 5/3/2017 Gene Maddaus
© Provided by Variety

U.S. producers have long complained that rampant piracy makes it difficult to do business in China. But in an interesting twist, a Chinese company has filed an $80 million suit alleging rampant piracy in the U.S.

On Wednesday, Sky Link TV filed a massive copyright infringement claim against iTalkBB, an over-the-top provider geared to Chinese immigrants, accusing the company of stealing thousands of hours of programming.

Sky Link TV operates broadcast channels in Los Angeles and San Francisco that provide original programming in Mandarin and Cantonese. It is a subsidiary of Guangzhou Broadcasting Network (GZBN), a Chinese TV network, and it redistributes the parent company’s programming in the U.S.

According to the lawsuit, iTalkBB has repeatedly sought permission to carry Sky Link TV programming on its OTT service, and has been repeatedly denied. iTalkBB provides phone and internet service to 1.2 million Korean and Chinese immigrants in countries around the world, according to its website. The company, which is headquartered in Austin, Texas, also offers a set-top box that provides 60 Chinese TV channels, as well as on-demand movies.

The suit contends that Sky Link TV recently became aware that iTalkBB was providing access to 457 shows produced by Sky Link TV or GZBN.

Sky Link TV hired an investigator who subscribed to the iTalkBB service. The investigator found that Sky Link TV programming was available on the service within hours or days of its original broadcast, according to the suit. The programming was also available for playback within 72 hours on a dedicated Sky Link channel within the iTalk service, according to the suit.

The suit contends that iTalkBB approached Sky Link TV in May 2015 to seek a license for Sky Link TV’s original programming. The request was rejected. In May 2016, iTalkBB began airing radio commercials in San Francisco promoting “Nightly Entertainment,” a GZBN show. According to the suit, iTalkBB had never inquired about licensing GZBN programming.

iTalkBB again approached Sky Link TV for licensing rights to its local programming in November 2016 and January 2017, and was again rebuffed, according to the suit. Around that time, iTalkBB began offering Sky Link’s Cantonese content on a dedicated channel, the suit claims. The company also began using Sky Link’s logos on its website, Sky Link claims.

The lawsuit seeks $68,550,000 in copyright damages and $12 million in restitution, in addition to costs. The suit was filed by Andrew S. MacKay, who handles intellectual property litigation at the Bay Area firm Donahue Fitzgerald.

iTalkBB has previously been accused of using unauthorized content on its service. In 2013, iTV Media issued a press release trumpeting its victory over iTalkBB in Chinese court. iTV Media claimed that iTalkBB had unlawfully broadcast the movie “Single No More” on its service.

iTalkBB did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

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