Company being sued by Warner and DCP for helping 4K content piracy claims “fair use” protection

by on March 10, 2016

Stephan Jukic – March 10, 2016

LegendSky is a hardware manufacturer that manufactures devices for enabling customers to strip 4K digital content protection and they’re currently being sued by Warner Bros. and Intel’s daughter company Digital Content Protection in an attempt to shut down their protection stripping product sales. However, the little hardware manufacturer is fighting back vigorously and has argued before a New York Federal court that they’re not break any laws under established “fair use doctrines”.

It’s a controversial claim indeed and those on the opposing side are serious heavy hitters in the media industry.

To summarize, last year several pirated copies of premium 4K content were leaked from both Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video’s 4K entertainment selections, only to appear shortly thereafter on torrent sites. While this was bound to eventually happen in some form, these particular leaks were unusual in the sense that online 4K streams are protected heavily from pirates by the latest in content protection protocols, namely HDCP 2.2 content copy protection.

Now, while the specific mechanics of these particular piracy leaks aren’t yet quite clear, a new lawsuit was brought down against LegendSky by both Warner Bros. and Digital Content Protection (DCP) starting with a belief by both major companies that LegendSky’s HDFury devices were involved in the leaks.

The two companies brought forth their lawsuit against LegendSky in January of 2016 in a New York Federal court and accuse the manufacturer of violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions.

The devices in question, called HDFury by their maker, allow their users to strip the latest version of HDCP encryption –which is HDCP 2.2, the protocol used with 4K content from streaming and hard media in particular. The HDFury hardware sits between an HDCP-compliant source of content and a secondary receiving device like a 4K TV, slowing the encrypted content to pass on a “stripped 4K signal.

HDCP 2.2 is integral to 4K content protection and UHD video often won't even play on a device without HDCP compatibility.

HDCP 2.2 is integral to 4K content protection and UHD video often won’t even play on a device without HDCP compatibility.

LegendSky itself has responded to the allegations (PDF) by asking the NY court to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that DCP and Warner’s claims are ungrounded.

Specifically, the company argues that Warner and Intel have no evidence of direct or willfully contributory copyright infringement and that DCP in particular is instead accusing LegendSky for the sake of keeping its monopoly intact.

According to the LegendSky response, “Plaintiffs’ claims are barred […] because of copyright abuse. Plaintiffs’ action against Defendant is an intentionally unlawful attempt to extend the scope of Plaintiffs’ copyright monopolies beyond their legal scope.”

Furthermore, the hardware maker claims that its products don’t violate DMCA and that the type of circumvention they offer is specifically allowed as a “fair use” exception that serves the function of connecting two different and separate computer programs.

LegendSky’s rebuttal to the lawsuit specifically claims that the plaintiffs’ claims are barred from having substance by fair use doctrine:

“In particular, to the extent that Defendants’ products circumvent within the meaning of the DMCA, such circumvention is lawful because it enables interoperability between independently created computer programs with other programs.”

Additionally, since LegendSky is a Chinese company, they argue that DCP has no jurisdiction over them and this is yet another reason for the New York court to dismiss the pending claims from Warner and DCP.

Given the importance of strong and legally protected 4K content protection for Warner and other players, it’s likely that both Warner and DCP counter LegendSky’s claims with further legal attacks of their own.

Warner in particular has a serious stake in preventing piracy of HDCP 2.2 protected content due to its impending release of numerous 4K UHD Blu-ray movie titles, all of which include HDCP content protection.

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