Light Reading

Court Deals Broadcasters Dish DVR Blow

Mari Silbey

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Dish Network Corp.'s Hopper digital video recorder does not appear to break the law by automatically editing out commercials in select recorded content. While the legal fight is still far from over, the decision means the satellite company can continue selling the Hopper even as further court battles continue.

Dish's latest win in court is a blow to broadcasters who are fighting legal battles over TV technology on multiple fronts. Fox Broadcasting Co., CBS Corp., and NBC Universal brought suit against Dish by alleging that the satellite provider was liable under copyright law. The Appeals Court, however, found that Dish's commercial-skipping technology likely complies with fair-use standards, and does not put Dish in breach of established contracts. (See Dish, Broadcasters Go to War over Ad-Zapper.)

Now that Dish has notched a significant win for the Hopper, it's conceivable that other TV providers could consider implementing similar DVR features.

Unfortunately for broadcasters, ad-skipping technology isn't the only area where over-the-air TV networks are struggling to protect revenue streams. Even as the battle over the Hopper rages, broadcasters are also fighting Aereo Inc. in court in an effort to maintain lucrative content licensing deals. (See CBS Financials Fuel Aereo Angst.)

So far, the courts have not responded favorably to broadcaster lawsuits. However, the TV networks do have another avenue of recourse. Even if they ultimately lose in the courtroom, broadcasters still have significant leverage in contract negotiations.

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/30/2013 | 4:29:53 AM
re: Court Deals Broadcasters Dish DVR Blow
I'd highlight the final sentence. Unlike Aereo where if the broadcasters lose they have little real recourse, in this case they could simply refuse to license their channels to Dish in the future as a result of the deployment of this feature. It would be interesting to know when the next negotiations for the different broadcasters are...
User Rank: Blogger
7/29/2013 | 9:05:10 PM
re: Court Deals Broadcasters Dish DVR Blow
seffros- You have a point. Article is now edited appropriately. As the official document says (emphasis my own), "the television provider showed that it was *likely* to succeed on its affirmative defense that the customers’ copying was a 'fair use.'"
User Rank: Lightning
7/29/2013 | 5:32:37 PM
re: Court Deals Broadcasters Dish DVR Blow
Unfortunately, consumer electronics reporters, including those for the Washington Post (which had an article similar to this one a few days ago) don't understand legal proceedings. The court DID NOT rule that what Dish is doing is legal, it simply ruled that no PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION would be issued prior to a trial! That's one heck of a different thing. I think Dish is likely to win "on the merits"... but it hasn't done so yet, and reports like this just confuse the heck out of folks!
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