Bell, Rogers, Videotron Interrogate Montrealer for 9 Hours in Piracy War

Bell, Rogers, Videotron and TV have surged ahead in their war against piracy, by searching the home of a Montreal software developer and interrogating him for 9 hours, reports CBC News.

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Adam Lackman is the founder of TVAddons, which provides “add-ons” for Android TV boxes running open source Kodi software to watch movies, TV shows and live TV, which some is pirated content. Lackman, as the defendant in a copyright infringement lawsuit launched by cable TV giants, says his service is nothing more than a search engine for existing sources on the web.

“The whole experience was horrifying,” Lackman, tells CBC News. “It felt like the kind of thing you would have expected to have happened in the Soviet Union.”

Bell, Rogers and Videotron obtained an Anton Piller order on June 9, “a civil search warrant that gives a plaintiff access to a defendant’s home, without notice, to search for and seize relevant evidence before it can be destroyed,” explains CBC News.

A group of men showed up at his house at 8AM on June 12, which included a bailiff, a couple computer technicians, independent counsel and a lawyer on behalf of Rogers, Bell and Videotron.

For 16 hours, the men remained at Lackman’s home, where they seized his smartphone, computer, plus he was forced by independent counsel to divulge passwords for his email and social media accounts.

Lackman was interrogated for over 9 hours and “not permitted to refuse to answer questions”, plus his lawyer on location was not allowed to counsel him in his responses. “Any time I would question the process, they would threaten me with contempt of court proceedings,” explained the Montreal resident. Despite this, he was allowed a break for dinner.

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He told Torrent Freak “I had to sit there and not leave their sight. I was denied access to medication,” adding, “I had a doctor’s appointment I was forced to miss. I wasn’t even allowed to call and cancel.”

Torrent Freak says “It’s fair to say that thus far, this process has revealed some of the most shocking abuses of power ever seen in an online copyright infringement case.”

A Federal Court judge later ruled on June 29 the Anton Piller was “null and void”, ordering all seized items to be returned to Lackman. The judge also said the search was only supposed to take place between 8AM and 8PM, instead of going all the way to midnight, while also stating the defendant was not offered “any of the protections normally afforded to litigants in such circumstances,” on top of being treated unfairly during the interrogation process.

The judge ruled the legal team of Rogers, Bell and Videotron tried to use the Anton Piller order to shut down TVAddons plus hunt for new evidence, when the order itself was to be used to preserve evidence.

“I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defence to the claim made against him,” the judge wrote in his ruling.

Lackman, on his new TVAddons site, said it was “a massive win against the draconian, anti-competitive conduct of Canada’s telecom cartels.”

Lackman still has not received his seized belongings, locked out of the TVAddons website and social media accounts, because Bell, Rogers and Videotron appealed the decision, and an Appeal judge says their appeal can be heard. Until then, Lackman’s belongings remain in limbo.

He told Torrent Freak his legal costs have already mounted to over $100,000—and he cannot fight cable companies alone, since they have control of his original domains, cutting off his income:

“It all comes down to whether we will have the financial resources necessary to mount our defense and go to trial. We won’t have ad revenue coming in, since losing our domain names means that we’ll lose the majority of our traffic for quite some time into the future,”

“We’re hoping that others will be as concerned as us about big companies manipulating the law in order to shut down what they see as competition. We desperately need help in financially supporting our legal defense, we cannot do it alone.

“We’ve run up a legal bill of over $100,000 to date. We’re David, and they are four Goliaths with practically unlimited resources. If we lose, it will mean that new case law is made, case law that could mean increased censorship of the internet.”

TVAddons is also being sued by Dish Network in the USA, so the legal battles are hitting Lackman on both sides of the border.

Lackman has started an Indiegogo page to fund his legal costs, and so far has $5,327 USD raised  in one day, out of his $250,000 USD goal.