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Dish sues Sharma IPTV operator over alleged piracy

The California man allegedly said he would try to frame his ex-wife for running an illegal streaming service if Dish moved forward with a legal complaint.

The California man allegedly said he would try to frame his ex-wife for running an illegal streaming service if Dish moved forward with a legal complaint.

A Dish Network satellite dish.
A Dish Network satellite dish. (Photo by Cody Logan via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

Dish Network is suing a California man in federal court for allegedly pirating signals from it satellite and streaming television products, then re-selling them through a questionable Internet service.

Last week, attorneys representing Dish filed a civil complaint against Vaneet Sharma and his Astro Vast Solutions LLC, both based in the San Francisco suburb of Danville, after the company concluded that Sharma illegally redistributed channels that were obtained from Dish and its streaming service, Sling TV.

The channels were repackaged in a service called Sharma IPTV, which was promoted through fliers that Sharma allegedly distributed to Indian temples, restaurants and shops throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The pamphlets said Sharma IPTV served up channels that offered pay-per-view programming and live sports from the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), and the National Basketball Association (NBA) for as little as $15 per month. Subscribers could also purchase a one-year annual pass for $150 or a two-year pass for $250, and an IPTV box used in connection with the service was available to buy for $100, according to a copy of a flier included with the complaint.

The brochure encouraged interested parties to contact Sharma over the phone or through a Gmail address specifically set up for the service, and when prospective customers took him up on the offer, payment was arranged through PayPal or another platform, Dish complained.

Once a customer paid for the channels, it became pretty clear that they originated from Dish and Sling TV, with some of the company’s dynamic advertising inserted during commercial breaks appearing on many of the entertainment, sports and news channels offered through Sharma IPTV.

“Identifiers that are unique to Plaintiffs’ internet transmissions of the Channels were detected when conducting a technical analysis of the corresponding channels on the Service, thereby confirming that channels retransmitted on the Service originated from Plaintiffs,” Dish wrote in the complaint. “Sling’s logo was also observed on certain channels retransmitted on the Service, further proof that Plaintiffs’ Channels were used to seed the Service with this unauthorized content.”

Document: Read the legal complaint filed by Dish against Vaneet Sharma [PDF]

Sharma was apparently able to rebroadcast channels from Dish and Sling TV after figuring out how to break certain digital rights management, or DRM, technology that the company used to protect the channels from unauthorized retransmission. Dish says Sharma used “a specifically developed computer program” to reverse engineer encryption certificates that are deployed through its DRM provider, Widevine.

“The computer program uses the channel decryption key to unlock the encrypted audiovisual segments that make up the channel, and then compiles the segments to form an unencrypted channel that is capable of being copied and retransmitted,” Dish complained. “The unencrypted channel can be uploaded to a server outside the Sling platform and retransmitted to any number of users that can receive the channel without purchasing a legitimate subscription from Plaintiffs.”

Dish said it had reason to believe its services were not the only ones targeted by Sharma for the scheme, adding that “content provided on the service is believed to be acquired from other legitimate pay-television providers that use the Widevine DRM through this process of circumvention, which enables the Service to offer thousands of channels and on-demand programs for a small fraction of the cost charged by legitimate providers that pay to license their content such as Plaintiff’s.”

Dish said it provided ample notice to Sharma that his IPTV service was violating their rights, and afforded him an opportunity to stop retransmitting channels from Sling, but “Sharma admitted that he will not stop providing the service because the profits that [he receives] from the service are too good to stop.”

“By the time [Dish] tries to do something, it will take years — why lose out on the profit?” Sharma allegedly said in response to a notification from Dish, according to the satellite company. He followed up with a statement that he would try to frame his “b**** ex” wife if he ran into legal trouble: “I can tell them that she was running it under my name,” Sharma allegedly said.

After being warned by Dish, Sharma did apparently change some of his tactics: He began telling customers to “not reference Sharma IPTV or IPTV anywhere” when they made payments through PayPal and other platforms, Dish said in the complaint. Instead, he encouraged customers to “reference something unrelated to the service, such as astrology consultation.” Eventually, he stopped allowing customers to pay for their subscription through PayPal entirely, Dish said.

“Likewise, Sharma directed users to remove Google reviews that they posted for defendants, because the reviews connected defendants to the service,” Dish asserted.

Dish is seeking a permanent injunction that bans Sharma from continuing to operate the Sharma IPTV service and any other service that includes circumventing DRM technology, as well as monetary damages and attorney’s fees.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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