Developer pulls more pirate streams over vetting practices

(Image via F2V TV/Roku Channel Store, Graphic by The Desk)

The developer of an underground Roku app that re-distributed pirate streams and unlicensed content has removed the majority of those streams this week.

The move came after an article published by The Desk that reported the developer, Georges Brunet of Canada, had been served with legal notices from two media companies requesting him to remove streams of broadcast channels owned by Weigel Broadcasting and Comcast Corporation from his Roku app Free2View (F2V) TV.

Earlier this month, Brunet complied with the legal notices and removed several popular channels, including Me TV, Start TV, Decades and Cozi TV from the F2V TV app. In an interview published by a streaming industry blog this week, Brunet asserted the streams distributed through his app originated from legal sources, though he did not say how he vetted them before making the streams available to users of his Roku app.

The F2V app is developed by Brunet through a shell company called StreamOnABudget. In a notice published through the service, Brunet contends that the streams offered on his app “conforms to app proper terms and conditions, as per Roku’s strict publishing requirements.” That development agreement includes a stipulation that app creators have “all intellectual property rights” for content distributed through an app.

In addition to the Weigel and Comcast-owned content streams, the F2V TV app offered access to movies, television shows and live news from ABC News, NBC News, AMC Networks, FilmRise, Retro TV, Buzzr and Global TV (representatives from the media companies who operate those streams have not yet returned a request for comment).  Those streams were still available through the F2V TV app until Monday evening, when Brunet pulled access to them after a terse back-and-forth discussion with The Desk on Facebook.

When asked how Brunet verified the legality of the content streams he offered through F2V TV, the developer initially refused to answer, only to later admit that he didn’t check to see if the streams available through F2V TV came from legal sources.

An audit of the F2V TV app by The Desk on Monday showed many streams offered on the service were franchised from free, ad-supported streaming services like Vizio SmartCast Plus, Samsung TV Plus, Redbox TV and Paramount Global’s Pluto TV. Brunet ultimately admitted he did not get permission from any of those distributors before making those streams available on F2V TV.

Brunet admitted he distributed streams from those platforms without permission because he did not consider it piracy, since the streams offered through F2V TV still included advertisements.

“I don’t modify the stream URLs in any way that takes ad revenue away from the platform — it’s just accessed through a different interface than someone having to…go to a website all the time,” Brunet said. “I am trying to [offer] a convenient way for the user to get the same thing they would be getting from [another] platform…and I certainly did not look at it as piracy.”

Still, on Monday, Brunet agreed he would remove the majority of the streams that he took from other services until he could obtain the legal right to offer them on his app. He also said the “Volume 2” app of his project — which still offered copyrighted streams as of Tuesday evening — would be removed from the Roku Channel store at a later date.

I continue to reach out to other smaller networks and streamers to get official rights to their channels as they want exposure,” he said.