This story first ran on BusinessDen.com, a BizWest news partner,
LOUISVILLE — As 2022 turns to 2023, Gaia, the large Louisville-based streaming service facing two class action lawsuits, has agreed to pay a $2 million federal fine while being accused of copyright and patent violations.
In one case, Gaia is defending itself against a former host who claims to have met benevolent blue aliens when he was 6. Gaia is countersuing that same host, accusing him of defaming the company by calling it full of Lucifer-loving cannibal pedophiles.
In another case, Gaia is accused of stealing an idea for a documentary about a man who says he has lived many lives spanning hundreds of years and can recall all of them.
Gaiam began as a yoga company in Boulder in 1988. It launched Gaia, a publicly traded streaming service, in 2011 focusing on yoga, meditation, and alternative ideas. Gaia moved to Louisville in 2019 and was named the country’s fastest-growing retailer, expanding its paid subscriber list to 800,000 and its market value to $200 million by 2021.
But more recently, legal problems have piled up. In a November report, Gaia revealed it had been under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission since mid-2020 and was settling the case for $2 million. Its chief financial officer was fined $50,000.
The settlement did not require Gaia to admit wrongdoing. The SEC claimed Gaia used a free subscription giveaway to inflate its subscription numbers and then touted those numbers to investors. It also failed to comply with whistleblower protections, according to the SEC.
The $2 million penalty, along with “elevated legal fees,” led to a net loss for the third quarter of 2022, according to Gaia’s quarterly report. The company also shed subscribers as “consumers shifted their attention and spending to travel and recreation,” CFO Paul Tarell wrote.
After the SEC settlement was revealed, several national law firms began asking Gaia shareholders to be plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit. That lawsuit, filed Dec. 20 in a Denver federal court, accuses Gaia and its top executives of inflating subscription numbers and not disclosing it was under federal investigation to the detriment of shareholders.
It is the second class action lawsuit Gaia must deal with in 2023. In September, a class action lawsuit filed in a Denver federal court accused the company of violating privacy laws by handing subscribers’ personal information to Facebook, which streams Gaia videos. Gaia’s lawyers deny that and have asked a judge to dismiss the case. That motion is pending.
Gaia and Tarell did not respond to emailed questions asking whether the SEC allegations are true and whether Gaia’s legal disputes are an ongoing threat to its profitability.
In some cases, Gaia’s close association with and promotion of conspiracy theorists has led to quirky legal messes. In February, it was sued by Antarctica Films, an Argentinian company that accuses Gaia of luring Matias de Stefano, the man who believes he has lived many lives, into breaking his contract with Antarctica Films and creating a Gaia show instead.
Antarctica Films claims that was contract interference and copyright infringement. Gaia says it didn’t know of the contract and the facts of de Stefano’s life cannot be copyrighted.
The oddest ongoing case involving Gaia is also the oldest.
In March 2020, Gaia was sued by Corey Goode, a Broomfield man. Goode claims he was abducted by the U.S. government at 6 and inducted into the Secret Space Program, where he met a species of bird-like aliens called the Blue Avians, with whom he remains in physical contact.
Goode had a popular show on Gaia between 2015 and 2018 in which he discussed the Secret Space Program and Blue Avians, two terms he tried to trademark. After Goode quit, Gaia hired a different host who claimed to have met Blue Avians through the Secret Space Program. Goode sued, accusing Gaia of hiring an “imposter” who infringed on his intellectual property.
According to a Business Insider article in 2021, Gaia’s executives are unusually preoccupied with the Blue Avians.
Six sources inside the company told the news outlet that promotional materials for a Gaia documentary about the Blue Avians had to be approved by the aliens themselves, “raising puzzling logistical challenges.” Gaia denies this.
In a May 2021 countersuit, Gaia said Goode’s replacement host quit after Goode threatened him. The company then had to hire additional security after Goode defamed Gaia by publicly sharing an email that “accused Gaia and/or its employees of being Luciferians engaged in or promoting pedophilia, human sacrifice, cannibalism and genocidal aspirations.”
It’s not the first time Gaia has sued someone for claiming the company worships Satan.
In a more earthly case, Gaia was sued this July by NEC, a Japanese company that accuses it of infringing on two NEC patents by streaming its shows to apps at a particular computer code processing rate.
Gaia’s attorneys have asked that the case be thrown out because code rates are abstract and not patentable. The request is pending.
Gaia has about 150 full-time employees, according to its latest annual report, and its campus in Louisville spans 12 acres, according to the Business Insider article.