If you were one of the nearly 400,000 users who subscribed to the popular SET TV streaming service back in its heyday, you likely remember the chaos that ensued when the service suddenly went offline in 2018. This followed a high-profile lawsuit filed by DISH Network accusing SET TV of mass copyright infringement through unauthorized distribution of live and on-demand streaming content.
In this article, I‘ll provide an in-depth explanation of what exactly happened between SET TV and DISH. You‘ll learn about how the lawsuit unfolded, the final court ruling that ordered SET TV to pay over $90 million in damages, and the aftermath following SET TV‘s shutdown. My goal is to illustrate the very real legal risks involved for both streaming services and end users when it comes to IPTV piracy.
If you‘re considering any low-cost IPTV services promising hundreds of live TV channels, this article will give you crucial information to make an informed decision and protect yourself. Let‘s dive in!
The Rise (and Fall) of SET TV
First, a quick background on SET TV for those unfamiliar with this now-defunct service.
SET TV marketed itself as a low-cost live TV streaming solution that could replace traditional cable TV. For just $20 per month, SET TV subscribers could access over 500 live TV channels including major networks like FOX, ABC, TNT and ESPN. There was also a large library of recent movies and TV shows available on-demand.
This sounds similar to legit streaming TV providers today like Sling TV and YouTube TV. But there was one massive difference – SET TV did not have any actual rights or licenses to distribute this content. They were illegitimately capturing and re-streaming TV feeds from cable networks without permission.
Still, SET TV gained immense popularity with cord-cutters who wanted cable TV-like access at a fraction of the price. The service peaked at over 400,000 paying subscribers according to estimates.
But this rapid growth also put SET TV firmly in the crosshairs of major entertainment companies. DISH Network eventually took legal action against SET TV for brazenly re-distributing DISH‘s own content without authorization or payments.
Things fell apart quickly for SET TV in early 2018…
- In April, SET TV‘s website suddenly went offline without explanation for several weeks.
- Subscribers reported widespread service outages and failed streams during this period.
- In a surprise Facebook post on May 21, SET TV announced they would permanently shut down just 3 days later on May 24 due to "legal reasons."
- On May 24, the SET TV service did indeed go offline for good. All streams and the website itself became unavailable.
While SET TV claimed a voluntary shutdown due to legal issues, their rapid demise clearly aligned with DISH‘s pending lawsuit against them. After building up hundreds of thousands of subscribers from 2017-2018, SET TV essentially evaporated overnight.
Next, let‘s examine what exactly happened in DISH‘s bombshell legal case against SET TV leading up to their unraveling.
DISH Network Lawsuit Against SET TV – What Happened
In June 2018, DISH Network and its anti-piracy partner NagraStar filed a lawsuit against SET TV in California federal court. The suit made some bold accusations, including:
Copyright Infringement: SET TV was illegally distributing DISH‘s own satellite channels/content without a license. This constituted copyright infringement on a massive scale.
Violating Communications Act: By illegally capturing and re-transmitting DISH‘s satellite signals, SET TV violated the Federal Communications Act.
Unfair Competition: SET TV unfairly competed against DISH by re-selling their content without authorization, allowing SET TV to offer lower prices.
DISH presented extensive evidence that SET TV was simply re-transmitting DISH Network‘s own channels without permission through the SET TV service. For example, forensic watermarking analysis confirmed illegal distribution of DISH content.
Table showing 10 DISH channels illegally distributed through SET TV, according to the lawsuit:
DISH sought the maximum $150,000 statutory damages for each instance of willful copyright infringement from SET TV. With 400,000+ subscribers, this added up to billions in potential damages.
SET TV actually tried to argue their service was legal under the "Cablevision defense" – a reference to the 2008 Cablevision court case ruling that a cloud DVR system for recording TV did not violate public performance rights. However, the judge rejected this defense entirely stating it did not apply to SET TV‘s unauthorized re-transmission of content.
Facing intense legal heat, SET TV decided to preemptively shut down their service in May 2018 before the court could issue a final damages ruling against them. But this did not get them off the hook…
Court Ruling – SET TV Ordered to Pay $90 Million+
Despite SET TV already shutting down its service, DISH continued pursuing the lawsuit to establish a clear legal precedent against IPTV piracy operations.
In October 2018, the California federal court issued a final judgment declaring SET TV directly liable for mass copyright infringement. The key aspects included:
SET TV violated the Federal Communications Act (FCA) by illegally capturing and re-transmitting DISH‘s satellite content without a license.
SET TV intentionally induced and engaged in copyright infringement on a massive scale by re-distributing DISH‘s channels without authorization.
Damages Awarded: Under the Copyright Act, SET TV had to pay $500 statutory damages for each of its 180,398 subscribers. This totaled $90,199,000 in damages to DISH.
Permanent Injunction: SET TV is forever banned from copying or re-transmitting any DISH content without explicit authorization in the future.
Surrender Equipment: SET TV must also turn over all hardware devices that contained pirated DISH content to them, including set top boxes pre-loaded with the SET TV app.
While certainly less than the "billions" DISH could have been awarded based on maximum statutory damages, the $90 million victory sent a strong message about the steep consequences of IPTV piracy.
Aftermath and Lessons from the SET TV Saga
SET TV remained offline after the court-ordered shutdown. The setvnow.com domain expired in April 2022, erasing one of the last footprints of the service.
But there are some clear lessons that both streaming providers and consumers can take away from SET TV‘s dramatic demise:
For Streaming Services
- Operating an IPTV service using pirated content without licenses is patently illegal and risks massive lawsuits.
- Major media companies like DISH are aggressively protecting their content rights. Licensing deals are an absolute must.
- Even voluntarily shutting down the service does not prevent huge damages from prior infringement.
For Streaming Users
- Accessing unauthorized streams from IPTV services enables content piracy. Users also face risks.
- "Too good to be true" deals like 500 cable channels for $20/month are likely sourced from illegal streams.
- Services relying on piracy often shutdown unexpectedly, leaving users without TV access.
- Using a quality VPN is strongly advised to better protect your privacy if accessing gray area streams.
In the wake of SET TV‘s unraveling, competing unauthorized IPTV services did see a temporary spike in new signups from former SET TV subscribers seeking replacements. However, most of these services face the same constant threat of legal action and shutdowns.
DISH states they have continued filing similar lawsuits against other pirate streaming services in the years since the SET TV case to protect their content distribution rights. Other major broadcasters like NBCUniversal have also adopted an aggressive anti-piracy stance.
Consumers tempted by low-cost IPTV deals should beware that too-good-to-be-true prices often come from illegal streams that could disappear at any time. And using these services does carry risks of enabling piracy. Caution is advised.
Ongoing Legal Crackdown on IPTV Piracy
To further illustrate the ongoing legal crackdown on IPTV copyright infringement, here are some notable lawsuits and enforcement actions against IPTV providers since 2018:
April 2022: Dish Network sued TVAddons and the ZemTV Kodi addon in a Texas federal court for copyright infringement through unauthorized distribution of Dish programming. Damages of up to $150,000 per infringed work are sought.
March 2022: NBCUniversal filed a lawsuit in a Virginia federal court against free sports streaming sites Cracksreams and Freestreams for illegally distributing live NBC Sports content through piracy.
February 2022: The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), a coalition of entertainment companies, filed a lawsuit in a Nevada federal court against Omniverse One World Television for infringing copyrights on a massive scale across over 100 streaming channels.
June 2021: DISH Network filed a copyright lawsuit in Illinois federal court against Easybox IPTV over re-distribution of channels like HBO, Showtime and DISH Network without a license.
May 2021: The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) collaborated with Amazon and Netflix to file a joint lawsuit in a California federal court against Widevine pirate Mohammed Siddiqui for circumventing DRM technology used by streaming services.
This is just a small sampling – lawsuits targeting unauthorized streaming sites and services continue regularly. New unauthorized IPTV operations eventually get targeted in a continuous game of legal whack-a-mole.
The core lesson is that operating an IPTV service on the back of pirated streams remains very much illegal and fraught with risk in the years since SET TV‘s demise. Accessing these unauthorized streams as a consumer should also be done cautiously with awareness of potential consequences.
Protect Yourself: Use a VPN for Streaming
For those who do choose to access unauthorized streaming sources like dubious IPTV apps and unlicensed sports or movie sites, using a VPN to protect your privacy is highly recommended.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) hides your true IP address and encrypts your traffic so that your online activities remain private. This prevents snooping from your ISP, government, copyright trolls or anyone else.
Benefits of using a VPN for streaming:
Keep your IP address hidden from tracking and surveillance
ISPs cannot see what sites or streams you are accessing
Bypass geographic restrictions on content
Added security when accessing shady sites
Top-rated VPNs I recommend:
🟢 ExpressVPN – Fastest VPN for streaming
🟢 Surfshark – Most affordable and unlimited devices
🟢 NordVPN – Largest server network
Quality VPNs only cost a few bucks a month and provide invaluable privacy protection that I highly recommend for all streaming activities. Never access unauthorized streams without a VPN!
Final Thoughts on the SET TV Saga
The extraordinary rise and fall of SET TV in 2018 perfectly encapsulates the legal minefield around unauthorized IPTV streaming services.
For a time, SET TV‘s brazen offering of 500+ cable channels at cut-rate pricing garnered massive popularity. But operating on the back of pirated, unlicensed content ultimately caught up with them. DISH Network delivered a smackdown in the form of over $90 million in damages.
SET TV‘s demise underscores the stark risks involved in enabling widescale copyright infringement – whether you are a streaming provider or an end user accessing pirated content. Caution remains well-advised to anyone tempted by low-cost IPTV deals that seem too good to be true.
I hope this thorough account of what transpired between SET TV and DISH has provided useful context and information to make wise decisions. Please stream safely and intelligently!