Internet TV Streamer Claims Its Service|Is Just Like an Old TV Antenna

     (CN) – An Internet TV company countersued the major networks, claiming it does violate copyright by live-streaming their programming, because the airwaves are a public trust.
     Fox, NBC, ABC and others sued FilmOn and Aereokiller in May, in District of Columbia Federal Court, over mini-antenna technology that allows users to receive live programming on their computers.
     Alki David, an heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, owns FilmOn and Aereokiller (not to be confused with David’s competitor Aereo, also the subject of a legal complaint. David himself is not a party to either lawsuit).
     FilmOn countersued last week, seeking declaratory judgment that its streaming services do not violate the Copyright Act.
     “This repetitive litigious behavior is inconsistent with the statutory obligations associated with the broadcast licenses granted to the networks, which enable the networks to access valuable broadcast frequencies – a public trust,” according to the 17-page counterclaim.
     “Having initially accepted billions of dollars in public resources and various other regulatory benefits, the networks now seek to renege on the deal struck with Congress under the Communications Act of 1934 and abandon their responsibilities to the American public,” the counterclaim continues.
     After FilmOn and Aereokiller launched streaming services in several major cities in August 2012, the networks responded with a federal complaint in Los Angeles, winning a temporary injunction.
     That was just a partial victory, as it was limited to the 9th Circuit’s jurisdiction.
     But in another setback for the networks, the 2nd Circuit in April rejected the networks’ copyright claims against FilmOn competitor Aereo.
     That set the stage for a repeat of the claims in D.C. Federal Court.
     This time, the networks seek the nationwide injunction that’s eluded them.
     FilmOn, of course, wants the opposite.
     In its counterclaim, FilmOn says it is serving an “important government interest by providing a unique technology,” which, like a traditional antenna, merely gives people access to freely available programming.
     FilmOn presents a smorgasbord of reasons for its claims, including a contested merger between NBC and Comcast, in which NBC agreed to meet with online video distributors such as FilmOn. It claims that NBC executives, however, brushed David off with a “non-offer” to buy an NBC “program from the dawn of television that is essentially worthless at present day.”
     FilmOn claims it entered into a deal with a Fox affiliate in Europe, but the network killed it after it got wind of it.
     Counterclaimant CBS “brings its claims in this case with unclean hands,” FilmOn says in its counterclaims, citing the network’s ties to subsidiary CBSI.
     CBSI owns CTNET, where downloads of file-sharing protocols like Bit Torrent allow users to illegally share and download files, FilmOn claims.
     FilmOn accuses CBS of contributing to societal malaise by enabling Americans to use peer-to-peer software to illegally download music, TV shows, and child porn.
     And, FilmOn claims, an adverse ruling will interfere with the “emerging field of cloud computing,” which allows legal access to all sorts of content online, including copyrighted videos and music.
     FilmOn is represented by Jaime Marquart with Baker Marquart.

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