Dish Vs. Fox: AutoHop Doesn't Violate Copyrights
November 13, 2012

Dish Vs. Fox: AutoHop Doesn’t Violate Copyrights

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Dish Network received a vote of approval last week from a court of law in a case launched against them by Fox. According to the lawsuit, Dish´s new services, PrimeTime AnyTime (PTAT) and AutoHop, allegedly violate copyright law by allowing customers to record popular broadcast television shows, then have the advertisements automatically stripped from them, resulting in a Netflix-style viewing experience.

While the court´s final decision wasn´t officially made public, Both Dish Network and Fox issued statements regarding the turn out of the case. Now, a redacted version of the sealed document has been made public, providing insight into what specific issues Fox has taken umbrage with, as well as where the courts stood in agreement with Dish.

According to an email from Dish Network spokesperson John Hall, both of these features will remain available to Dish customers throughout the remainder of the trial. Moreover, according to the email, the courts have decided "at its core, PTAT is little more than a faster, more streamlined way for users to engage in the time-shifting privileges that they have enjoyed since the days of the Betamax."

Fox had claimed the new Dish services violated copyrights by giving customers the ability to record these shows and watch them later. Fox had originally asked that the court place an injunction against these features, a request which was rejected last week. However, while this request was denied, it was suspected that the judge had some concerns that these features might violate certain copyrights.

According to the now public court filings from Mr. Hall, the judge has ruled that "neither the marking announcements nor the ad-skipping effect of 'AutoHop' implicates any copyright interest or breach of contract on the current record."

Of importance is the ruling that it´s the customer and not Dish Network responsible for recording these programs. Fox had originally complained that Dish was storing these copies and then sharing them with their customers, which would have violated a copyright. These court filings show that Fox was not able to suggest any theory wherein it would be possible for these customers to record and then share copyrighted content.

Furthermore, the court also found that neither the PTAT or AutoHop did not distribute any unauthorized copies and therefore does not violate copyrights.

Though it is the customers who do the recording of these programs to view at another time, Dish does record copies of these Prime Time shows for quality assurance purposes, making sure the shows cut off at the right time and only the commercials are skipped. Fox had suggested that it was these copies which could have been distributed. It was found that these copies remain at the uplink facility and are only used to test the commercial breaks and solve any issues which may arise therein.

“Fox has indicated its intention to appeal Judge Gee's decision,” writes Mr. Hall in his email, vowing that Dish will continue to work to keep these features available for their customers.

“DISH is confident that the Court's denial of Fox's preliminary injunction motion ruling will stand and that consumers will continue to have the right to enjoy television as they want, when they want, including the right to skip commercials if they so choose.”