Dealing with online piracy is a reality for companies in the entertainment business, but Ryan Kavanaugh never dreamed anyone would go as far as Ethan Klein did. Klein is a popular YouTube personality and podcaster who owns H3 Productions with his wife, Hila. Triller, a social media app Kavanaugh co-founded, alleges that Klein pirated more than four million unique views during the live broadcast of a boxing match between Ben Askren and Jake Paul on April 17, 2021. The brazen electronic theft cost Triller Fight Club more than $100 million in lost revenue.
Piracy is Not New
People have been committing the act of piracy ever since they could watch movies, sports, and other forms of entertainment on their computer. The motivation for most of them is to enjoy the broadcast without paying a fee. Unfortunately, the motivation in Klein’s case was much more sinister. He felt entitled to the money Kavanaugh and Triller had earned and used it to boost his own company’s profits at their expense. Triller executives filed a lawsuit in late April 2021 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California in response.
Ryan Kavanaugh Never Intended to File a Lawsuit of His Own
Even though Kavanaugh is a shareholder and co-founder of Triller, he is not the company’s CEO and cannot file lawsuits on its behalf. Although he was happy to support Triller’s efforts to recoup its lost revenue via the legal system, he did not become personally involved at first. That changed when Ethan Klein refused to stop slandering him online. Here are just a handful of examples of illegal and unethical actions committed by Klein and his millions of YouTube and podcast followers:
- Disclosed the details of the lawsuit filed by Triller to his podcast followers.
- Posted at least eight videos slandering Kavanaugh, claiming that he had sued him when it was Triller that had done so.
- Manipulated search engine results to bury links to Kavanaugh’s websites and redirect search queries to his own videos.
- Paid Wikipedia editors to change Kavanaugh’s profile to include almost exclusively negative information. Kavanaugh had not updated the profile since 2018 and had no problem with it previously.
- Created a website for the sole purpose of attacking Kavanaugh by comparing the successful movie producer to Harvey Weinstein.
- Publicly accused Kavanaugh of not paying his employees or nanny.
- Manipulated a Variety article that used the words Ponzi scheme to imply that Kavanaugh and his employees were guilty of fraud. Despite the article completely disavowing the connection, Klein published it on his website more than 30 times.
- Instructed his followers to harass Kavanaugh on his own social media sites and leave 1-star reviews for Triller.
Ryan Kavanaugh soon found himself spending most of his time dealing with the fallout of Klein’s actions. He filed a piracy report with YouTube, presented proof of fake reviews by Klein’s followers to the app store, and gave interviews attempting to clear his name. While his work was not yet over, he decided that Klein needed to face accountability for his malicious behavior. Seven months after Triller filed a lawsuit against Klein and H3 Products, Kavanaugh did the same.