Internet TV Company Faces New Injunction
(CN) - In a big win for television networks, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction against a paid subscription service that streams live TV shows over the Internet.
The decision out of Washington, D.C., comes just over a week after the 9th Circuit held a hearing on whether to continue the injunction previously ordered against the service by a federal judge in Los Angeles.
Both cases involve lawsuits by the Fox and other major networks against FilmOn X, formerly known as Aereokiller.
Owned by heir to the Coca-Cola fortune Alki David, FilmOn X uses mini-antenna technology to retransmit the networks' copyrighted shows over the Internet. It launched streaming services in several major cities in August 2012, as did a competing service Aereo, owned by Coca-Cola director Barry Diller. Filings by the major national broadcast television networks followed.
FilmOn filled a counterclaim to the D.C. case, insisting that it is serving an "important government interest by providing a unique technology," and giving viewers access to over-the-air programming they otherwise receive for free through traditional antennas.
U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer disagreed Thursday, issuing the injunction demanded by the networks. She found that mini-antenna technology is less like traditional antenna and more like cable television, a likely violation of the networks' exclusive right to publicly broadcast works under the Copyright Act of 1976.
FilmOn failed to show that its system created a "one-to-one relationship between a single mini-antenna and a viewer."
The dime-sized antennas that transmit programming to computers and mobile devices through a set-up that includes a tuner router and server, are "hardly akin to an individual user stringing up a television antenna on the roof," Collyer wrote.
"FilmOn X, which is a commercial service retransmitting plaintiffs' television performances, is in no meaningful way different from cable television companies, whose relationship with broadcasters such as plaintiffs was the primary motivation for the 1976 Act's enactment," she added.
The networks showed they would probably "suffer irreparable harm" since FilmOn's service may provide an incentive for cable companies to negotiate for reduced retransmission fees, according to the ruling.
"We are pleased, but not surprised, that that the court recognized that the commercial retransmission of our broadcast signal without permission or compensation is a clear violation of the law," Fox said in statement. "This decision should finally put the matter to rest, and will hopefully discourage other illegal services from attempting to steal our content."
David told Variety that he would appeal.
"The judge is clearly in (the broadcasters') pockets," David said in an email to Variety. "From the day they filed in D.C. I suspected they had influence in the courts there. There is something so very rotten in corporate America and it makes me sad. Anyway... I'm on my yacht in (the) Mediterranean at the moment so they can kiss my hairy Greek ass. This is just a temporary setback we will win on appeal." (Parentheses in Variety's Sep. 5 article).
The new injunction excludes territories in the states of Connecticut, New York and Vermont based on precedent in that jurisdiction favoring the competing service Aereo.