Toronto-based media subsidiary Bell Media has launched a court action against Montreal-based telecommunications service provider Videotron over claims of trademark infringement.
According to a November 5th, 2018 statement of claim filed through the Federal Court’s Vancouver registry office, Bell Media is demanding at least $100 million CAD in damages from Videotron — $20,000 per each individual episode of the approximately 2,700 television shows and films currently secured by Bell’s copyright — for failing to agree to new content distribution terms by an October 31st, 2018 deadline.
The lawsuit has been repeatedly referenced by Videotron24_7 — the service provider’s technical support line on Twitter — as a “disagreement with Bell Media.”
“We regret to inform you that because of a disagreement with Bell Media, which owns the Crave + Movies + HBO channel, they are depriving our customers of access to the GO platform indefinitely,” reads a number of Videotron24_7 tweets in response to customer confusion.
A follow up tweet explains that Videotron subscribers looking to access Bell’s new Crave + Movies + HBO content services can navigate to “channel 900 on [their] illico terminal and select “Crave Movies and HBO” in the “On-demand Channels” section, or program your PVR to channels 811 to 815 HD.”
Disagreements and missed deadlines
Bell Media’s licenses include “premium programming from leading movie studios, including HBO,” and allow the company to be the sole provider of video-on-demand (VOD) services pertaining to shows like Game of Thrones, The Newsroom, The Sopranos and The Wire.
On July 1st, 2013, Bell Media granted Videotron the authorization to provide its subscribers with access to content licensed by Bell Media, while also allowing the Quebec-based service provider to use certain Bell Media trademarks, including “depictions of logos, images and digital poster art.”
Videotron reportedly terminated this agreement in 2016, but the two service providers pledged to negotiate a new agreement.
Regardless of the negotiations, Videotron couldn’t continue providing access to Bell VOD content after October 31st, 2018.
“…Videotron has infringed and continues to infringe Bell Media’s copyright rights…” — Bell Media
Bell eventually presented Videotron with a revised agreement proposal in August 2018, following up on October 16th, October 22nd and October 24th, 2018 to inform Videotron that if it didn’t agree to the proposal by October 26th, 2018, it would no longer be able to offer Bell’s VOD content to subscribers as of November 1st, 2018.
Videotron reportedly failed to agree to Bell Media’s proposal and, according to its own tweets, has continued to provide subscribers with access to Bell Media’s licensed VOD after October 31st and November 1st.
“Since November 1st, 2018, Videotron has infringed and continues to infringe Bell Media’s copyright rights in the Bell VOD Works,” reads an excerpt from Bell Media’s November 5th court filing.
Although Bell Media’s parent company BCE Inc. and Videotron are both headquartered in Montreal — and despite the fact that Bell Media filed its trademark suit in Vancouver — Bell Media has proposed that a trial take place in Toronto.
A response from Bell and Videotron
Bell Media’s vice president of communications Scott Henderson told MobileSyrup that the media giant was able to negotiate new distribution agreements with all major Canadian broadcast distributors — except Videotron — in lieu of the launch of Bell’s new Crave platforms.
“We’ve filed a copyright and trademark infringement claim against Vidéotron because they’ve simply gone ahead and made the new Crave VOD content available to their customers without authorization,” said Henderson.
Videotron declined to comment, “as the negotiation with Bell is still ongoing.”
Videotron has 30 days as of November 5th to respond to Bell Media’s statement of claim.