Online Cricket streaming site Willow.tv has reportedly been sending legal notices to fans of Cricket streaming sites, according to deepbackwardpoint.com and this forum post (via GigaOm). According to the posts, in an email being sent out, Willow.tv says the following:

– Has got information on subscribers: It has filed a Federal lawsuit against website owners that they allege sold pirated downloads and videostreams of Copyright protected matches, and through a subpoena, they got records of subscribers of these websites.
– Potential damages: The email is being sent to alleged subscribers of the alleged copyright violators. They’re claiming that damages could be up $30,000 per infringement, and $150,000 if the infringement is willful.
– Subscribe To Prevent Legal Action: The company says that it doesn’t want to pursue legal action against viewers, and is offering a “onetime release of all claims and liability for any and all past illegal downloads or streaming views of cricket matches” if the alleged subscriber agrees to purchase a one year subscription to Willow.tv, for $14.99/month. Another alternative is that they can pay $200 per match or $1000 per subscription package from a pirate website.

This, as deepbackwardpoint points out, is similar to what the music industry body RIAA did with downloaders (more at the EFF here). Willow.tv CEO Vijay Srinivasan told GigaOm that the company is willing to go after end users.

Last we heard of Willow.tv, it was a part of Elephant Capital backed Global Cricket Ventures, through which it had rights to stream IPL matches in North America. We’re not sure if GCV still has Cricket related rights, but it does appear that Willow.tv was still in the Cricket streaming game, with, according to the email, “exclusive rights to distribute and stream cricket matches in the United States and Canada, as well as the rest of North America, including the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 and the national cricket matches for Australia, New Zealand, England and South Africa amongst other boards, for the 2010-2011 season”.

Our Take on the Legal Notices

The threat of legal action isn’t the same as filing a lawsuit, though that doesn’t mean that Willow.tv won’t follow through. $14.99 is a small price to pay for avoiding legal action, and the $200/$1000 alternative is significantly higher, so a subscriber is more likely to take this offer up, instead of risking litigation. In that sense, it’s a shrewd move from Willow.tv to try and convert these subscribers into paying customers at not too high a cost. However, it will have a hard time proving piracy, because it isn’t that the user has downloaded music or movies which are stored, rather, that they’ve viewed live streams of a match and their email address is in a pirates database. Think about it – with the amount of pirated content that used to be up on YouTube, you think it was possible for labels to sue people for viewing it? Willow.tv would probably also have to prove that the subscriber used a pirate site knowing that it is a pirate site, or that piracy was the intent.