Court Deals Broadcasters Dish DVR Blow
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