On June 28, 2023, the Federal Court of Canada (the Court) in Warner Bros Entertainment Inc v Tyler White DBA Beast IPTV, 2023 FC 907 sentenced the Defendant to incarceration for 60 days after being found guilty of contempt of court for disobeying numerous provisions of an interim order.

The Plaintiffs are several entertainment companies, including Warner Bros, Disney, Netflix, Sony and Universal.  In a previous action commenced in 2020, the Plaintiffs alleged copyright infringement against two Defendants, Mr. Tyler White and Mr. Colin Wright, for infringing copyright in the Plaintiffs’ works by developing, operating, maintaining, promoting and selling subscriptions to an online streaming service known as “Beast IPTV Service.”  The Plaintiffs had obtained an interim injunction to stop the operation of the online streaming service.

In 2021, White was found guilty of contempt for disobeying numerous provisions of the interim order after pleading guilty to the charges levelled against him.

There were two issues before the Court: the appropriate sentence to be imposed on White and the amount of costs to be awarded to the Plaintiffs.

The Plaintiffs recommended that the Court impose upon White a sentence of incarceration for 60 days and award costs on a solicitor-client basis.  The Court reviewed White’s conduct to evaluate aggravating and mitigating factors.  In terms of aggravating factors, the Court found that the contempt was knowing and deliberate and White knew the legal ramifications of his behaviour.  Additionally, White’s failure to provide the Plaintiffs with important technical information about the streaming service as required under the terms of the interim order caused irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs as they were unable to deactivate the streaming service.  Further, White benefited financially from his actions by depleting his assets before complying with his obligation to disclose financial information under the order.  The Court noted the absence of a prior conviction for contempt along with White’s guilty plea as mitigating factors but questioned the sincerity of White’s apology and expressions of remorse to the Court.

The Court concluded that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors and noted that imposing a fine in an amount that is perceived as being nothing more than the “cost of doing business” would not deter similar conduct.  As a result, the Court accepted the Plaintiffs’ recommendations regarding sentencing and costs as both reasonable and warranted in light of White’s “blatant, defiant and obstructionist conduct.”  The Court sentenced White to incarceration for 60 days (to be served on weekends) and imposed costs on a solicitor-client basis.

Lastly, the Court reflected on its prior reluctance in ordering incarceration in copyright matters as compared with provincial courts, noting that it is important for courts in Canada to be consistent in their approach to sentencing in contempt proceedings involving copyright matters, and “dispel the notion that [the Federal] Court, the go-to forum for intellectual property litigation, is more lenient than provincial superior courts.”

Summary By: Victoria Di Felice


23 08 09

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