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Broadcasters Score Court Victory Against FilmOn

D.C. Circuit ruling runs counter to Aereo decision

Photo: Peter Dazeley

Broadcasters scored a major victory against FilmOn X, an Aereo-like pay service that streams TV stations over the Internet.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a preliminary injunction against the service, handing broadcasters including Fox, NBC Universal, Telemundo, ABC, CBS, Allbritton Communications and Gannett Co. the second court win out of three court decisions in their ongoing copyright fight.

The order bars FilmOn X from continuing to distribute local TV signals over the Internet without permission from broadcasters in Washington, D.C., and other markets.

"This Court concludes that the Copyright Act forbids FilmOn X from retransmitting plaintiffs' copyrighted programs over the Internet," wrote U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer.

The decision, issued Thursday, runs counter to a New York court's refusal to grant broadcasters an injunction against Aereo, a similar service, setting up the possibility that the cases will progress to the Supreme Court. 

Judge Collyer addressed the Aereo case in her ruling, but disagreed with that decision. "The Court respectfully disagrees with Aereo's conclusion to the contrary," she wrote. "It agrees with [U.S. Court of Appeals] Judge [Denny] Chin that 'the legislative history makes clear that Congress intended to reach new technologies...that are designed solely to exploit someone else's work."

Alki David, CEO of FilmOn, is expected to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, broadcasters are breathing a sigh of relief.

"We are pleased but not surprised that the court recognized that the commercial retransmission of our broadcast signal without permission or compensation is a clear violation of the law," Fox said in a statement. "This decision should finally put the matter to rest, and will hopefully discourage other illegal services from attempting to steal our content."

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