TV Networks VS. Dish ‘Ad Skipper’: Judge Favors Dish
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Necessary evil though it may be, TV watchers have been finding ways to miss or skip commercials for years. The invention of TiVo and the DVR helped drive this behavior along with giving viewers a way to skip commercials during recorded shows.
Earlier this year, Dish Network created their own clever way of easing the burden of TV viewers by removing the commercials for them. Not long after this feature was announced, Dish was greeted with separate lawsuits from CBS, Fox and NBC, saying the feature is akin to copyright infringement, allowing watchers to view their content on their own terms. The Fox lawsuit in particular proposed an injunction against the feature, keeping it out of homes and keeping advertisers happy.
Yesterday a judge rejected these requests for an injunction, though not without questioning the way in which Dish’s services record and playback this copyrighted content.
The Judge’s rulings remained sealed and haven’t been released to the public. However, both Dish and Fox have released statements concerning the ruling.
Dish’s services, called “PrimeTime Anytime” and “AutoHop” record Prime Time shows from networks like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC to a customer’s DVR. When the customer watches these shows at a later time, AutoHop automatically strips the commercials from the programs, allowing a Netflix-style viewing experience.
“We were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, Dish Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem,” a spokesperson for Fox said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter in May.
Though Wednesday’s ruling was not released publicly, Dish announced the judges injunction rejection in a statement. While Dish may have been able to stave off an injunction, US District Court Judge Dolly Gee is said to be willing to accept some of the copyright infringement claims being held against them.
While Judge Gee did say Fox was unable to prove they’ve suffered irreparable harm from Dish’s new features, she was concerned with the recording of these shows for playback without the commercials.
“We are gratified the court found the copies DISH makes for its AutoHop service constitute copyright infringement and breach the parties’ contract,” said Fox in a statement yesterday concerning the ruling. “DISH is marketing and benefiting from an unauthorized VOD service that illegally copies Fox’s valuable programming.”
The network also said they’d be appealing the part of Judge Gee’s decision which rejected their injunction request.
Dish’s executive vice president and general counsel R. Stanton Dodge issued a statement after the ruling, saying: “Today’s ruling is a victory for common sense and customer choice. DISH is gratified that the Court has sided with consumer choice and control by rejecting Fox’s efforts to deny our customers access to PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop…”
While Dish is claiming their new commercial hopping services constitute nothing more than a powerful DVR, an existing technology, Fox strongly disagrees, arguing this feature could strip away much-needed revenue from advertisers.