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Chinese OTT Service Hits Back at Massive Piracy Claim

Variety logo Variety 6/14/2017 Gene Maddaus
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A Chinese-language over-the-top provider is hitting back at claims that it stole thousands of hours of programming from Sky Link TV.

iTalkBB, which provides phone and internet service to Chinese and Korean citizens living abroad, says it obtained a license and paid to distribute Sky Link’s content.

“Sky Link made its programming available; its representatives made all the physical connections between the servers that allowed its programming to be shown, and its agent invoiced iTalk and received payment,” said Michael E. Williams, iTalk’s attorney. “The only surprise here is Sky Link’s bogus claim that it knew nothing about this arrangement.”

Sky Link 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 broadcaster.

The company filed an $80 million federal lawsuit last month, alleging that iTalk had infringed on 457 shows owned by Sky Link or GZBN. According to the suit, iTalk was offering Sky Link’s content on a dedicated channel through its set-top box.

The suit alleges that iTalk repeatedly sought a license for Sky Link’s programming, but was turned down. iTalk now alleges it was the other way around, and that Sky Link sought and obtained a licensing agreement. According to iTalk, Sky Link’s agent sent monthly invoices and iTalk paid them until Sky Link terminated the agreement. At that point, iTalk says it removed Sky Link’s content from its service.

Williams accused Sky Link of bringing the “frivolous” suit in an effort to cast a cloud over iTalk with Chinese content producers.

“Sky Link TV is trying to gain an unfair advantage in the marketplace by filing baseless claims against iTalk, knowing that iTalk is engaged in active negotiations with Chinese content providers for programming that Sky Link is also seeking to offer,” Williams said in a statement.

Sky Link’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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