At least one media company is taking a get-tough approach to unauthorized streaming of their video productions. Media giant Viacom, owner of Paramount Pictures and cable television staples that include Spike, TV Land, CMT, MTV, and VH1 - as well as Nickelodeon and Comedy Central - has sued the owner of the website nickreboot.com, which operated the private Roku channels Nick Reboot and Cartoon Network Reboot.
These channels, which are no longer available on Roku, offered free streaming of popular Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network shows from the 1990s and early 2000s. Titles included SpongeBob SquarePants, The Ren & Stempy Show, Rugrats, and The Fairly OddParents. In addition to the free streams, nick reboot offered a premium paid service that allowed on-demand access to these shows.
nick reboot claimed that streaming of the shows was legal under the "fair use" doctrine of the U.S. copyright law. Viacom has a different opinion. Viacom's lawsuit (Viacom International Inc., v. John Does 1-5 inclusive, d/b/a, nickreboot.com), lists complaints that include copyright infringement, trademark infringement, cybersquatting, and unfair competition. Specifically, Viacom alleges that the operators of nick reboot "have unlawfully distributed, reproduced, performed or otherwise exploited pirated copies of the Viacom Works to users in the United States (and elsewhere)." In addition to actual damages, Viacom is seeking to be awarded trebled actual and punitive damages, all profits earned by nick reboot, and reimbursement of attorneys' fees and other costs of the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also asks for an injunction to immediately stop nick reboot from further streaming or other distribution of Viacom works, lock the nickreboot.com domain name, and require financial institutions and advertisers to freeze funds belonging to the operators of nick reboot. It is interesting to note that Viacom does not know the identities of the nick reboot operators (thus the listing of "John Does" as plaintiffs). The lawsuit alleges that "Defendants have used Whois Privacy Corp. for the registration of the
For their part, nick reboot has posted a notice on its website stating that "nick reboot is not 'malicious' and was never meant to be taken as such. I have the utmost respect for Viacom and the 'Nickelodeon' brand and would have been more than willing to work with Viacom on this matter had I been contacted." A final posting on March 3 states "To clarify, yes: nick reboot is shutting down. I am working on closing the many systems that power this site and I appreciate your patience during this transition. To the viewers: please show respect for all parties involved and let due process take its course."
On March 5, a week after filing their lawsuit against nick reboot, Viacom's Nickelodeon launched its own stand-alone subscription service, Noggin. Unlike nick reboot, Noggin does not offer classic Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network fare, and is not available on over-the-top streaming devices like Roku. It's a mobile app for preschoolers and is available only on iOS devices. However, this app does show that Viacom is eyeing the streaming market and would not be unlikely for them to offer their own standalone subscription service, similar to what Sling TV offers for other cable networks.