Netflix might have kicked off the era of streaming video, but it has a lot of competition these days including Hulu, Amazon Prime, and the new Disney+ service. Those are just the legitimate sources, though. There are services that stream pirated content, but the operators of those sites might be feeling the heat. The FBI just announced guilty pleas from two men accused of working in massive online piracy operations, and more cases are still pending.
Until earlier this year, Jetflix and iStreamItAll offered unlimited access to thousands of streaming titles for $10 per month. The Department of Justice says iStreamItAll offered more than 118,479 television episodes and 10,980 movies. Darryl Julius Polo has pleaded guilty to several counts of copyright infringement related to running the site. Polo also worked with co-defendant Luis Angel Villarino to develop Jetflicks, a very similar streaming site that operated in the same manner. Villarino has admitted to just one count of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.
Polo says he developed sophisticated automation scripts that combed the internet in search of new content. His crawlers were active on some of the largest torrent sites, as well as Usenet NZB indexers. His system would download the content, catalog it, and load it into servers located in Canada for subscribers to access. The DOJ estimates the sites had tens of thousands of subscribers. The sites were also ruthless about password sharing, something that plagues its legal competition. Staff would allegedly scour the internet for people sharing their passwords and tell them to knock it off.
Perhaps the most startling thing about iStreamItAll and Jetflicks is that they were operated from the US (in Las Vegas) and had all the trappings of a legitimate business. There were websites, US bank accounts, customer service, and even the occasional press release. You could argue Polo and Villarino were really begging for the government to come down on them, but the sites operated for years with impunity.
Polo and Villarino are scheduled to be sentenced in March. Prosecutors likely offered reduced sentences in exchange for the guilty pleas. The pair have provided testimony that will help the government’s cases against six more people charged in the scheme. Those cases will begin in February 2020. That includes Kristopher Dallmann, the CEO of Jetflicks, who faces more serious charges than his subordinates.
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