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article imageTV streaming should be treated like cable operators: U.S. judge

By James Walker     Jul 18, 2015 in Internet
In a landmark ruling for the world of TV broadcasting and streaming, a U.S. judge has ruled that one streaming company could be entitled to a license that would let it transmit the copyrighted content of other broadcasters over the Internet.
The Verge reports how District Court Judge George W. Wu ruled that the TV streaming firm FilmOn could "potentially" be entitled to acquire a compulsory license that has previously been refused to other streaming services. Such a license would allow it to retransmit the copyrighted content of broadcasters, using antennas to capture content and distribute it to customers online.
FilmOn's lawyer, Ryan Baker, told Reuters that the judge's words were "a win for technology and for the American public." He added that the broadcasters "have been trying to keep their foot on the throat of innovation." A Fox Networks representative said that the company would appeal and that the judge's verdict "contravenes all legal precedent."
Because of the impact that the ruling could have on the industry, Wu has referred it to a higher court of appeal. The case is thought to have "significant commercial importance" so will undergo additional scrutiny, giving the networks a chance to retaliate again. Fox said in a statement that it "fully expects to prevail."
Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and others first filed against FilmOn X in 2012. They won an injunction against the company. preventing it from broadcasting their content, but this could be reversed if Judge Wu's decision is upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
They also successfully closed down a competitor to FilmOn, Aereo, last year. The U.S. supreme court ruled that Aereo would have violated broadcasters' copyright. The Verge notes that other judges have said that allowing for third parties to freely retransmit copyright material could "destabilize the entire industry."
The broadcasters say allowing services like FilmOn and Aereo to operate would violate their copyright and decrease revenue from advertising and subscription fees. If allowed to enter business, FilmOn would still have to abide by legislation which includes paying royalties to the networks, but it is argued that this would not recompense them sufficiently for the usage of their copyrighted productions.
Wu's ruling represents an interesting U-turn for the continuing fight between broadcasting networks and TV streaming services. Although nothing is final, the case indicates that this issue isn't going to go away any time soon as TV streaming comes closer to reality and the networks vow to appeal yet again.
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