Major U.S. TV provider Dish Network has launched a lawsuit targeting apps used to stream unauthorized content. Now some of those apps have disappeared, but tech experts say it won't be long before they're back.
That's because when one targeted service goes down, another one often pops up in its place.
"With the way piracy works, someone else will just take that mantle and continue," says Patrick O'Rourke, a Toronto-based writer for the tech site MobileSyrup.
The Dish lawsuit targets a service called TVAddons — a library of hundreds of apps known as add-ons, many of which allow people easy access to pirated movies, TV shows and even live television.
TVAddons is popular with people who own Android TV boxes, which are often promoted with the promise of "free TV." Once the boxes are loaded with special software, customers can use the add-ons to stream a huge selection of pirated content on their televisions.
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But now some of those add-ons are disappearing.
The Dish suit names both TVAddons and one of its apps, ZemTV, alleging copyright infringement. ZemTV is targeted because it allows people to access Dish channels without paying for them, claims the suit.
As first reported by the online news site TorrentFreak, several popular add-ons went dark this month after the lawsuit was filed.
ZemTV disappeared along with TVAddons' Phoenix, which offered access to a wide range of pirated movies, TV shows and live sports.
"In light of current events, we have decided to close down Phoenix," announced its creator, Cosmix.
A developer who goes by the name Echo Coder stated on Twitter that they were taking down their add-ons, without mentioning which ones. "It's been emotional," said Echo Coder. The tweet has now been taken down.
According to the site KodiGeeks, more than 20 different add-ons are either no longer working or could soon disappear.
This week brought more bad news for the add-on community. Both the TVAddons' website and Facebook site went offline. Its Twitter account is still up, but nothing has been posted since June 3.
Consequently, there's speculation the entire TVAddons library is doomed, leading some people to post, "RIP TVAddons" on Twitter.
"It's a bit of shock," says Vincent Wesley, of Montreal, who blogs about add-ons.
"Taking down a website is a big thing because you lose ranking, you lose ad revenue, there's rumours that [can] come up," he said.
Wesley is no stranger to the chilling effect of anti-piracy lawsuits. He used to sell Android boxes loaded with software and add-ons. But last year he was named in a lawsuit launched by major Canadian TV providers determined to stamp out the box business.
The plaintiffs won a court injunction that forces dozens of box dealers named in the suit to stop selling loaded devices until the case is over.
Wesley claims there are still many dealers peddling boxes and that a court case can't kill the industry. He says the same is true for the add-on community, even with TVAddons' future in question.
"It's definitely a blow to the community, but it's not a fatal blow," Wesley said. He points out that there are numerous similar apps available that have no association with TVAddons.
Wesley also believes that even if TVAddons disbands, it may rebrand itself and return under a different name.
"It's a huge nuisance or annoyance to have to start from scratch, but it's something that can be done," he says. "You're not 'TVAddons' anymore; you're 'Streaming Addons' now and you just kind of move on."
RIP TV Addons— @GhouIUnlimited
Tech analyst O'Rourke says another option is that a developer may come along and revive now defunct add-ons.
"Someone will download them, deconstruct them and release them in another way," he said. O'Rourke compares the situation to illegal downloading sites for content that reappear under different names after getting hit with legal trouble.
"What happens with that type of thing is another one just pops up."