Judge Won’t Shut Down Dish’s AutoHop

Fox intends to appeal decision

A U.S. District Court Judge in Los Angeles Wednesday declined to grant Fox Broadcasting's request to shut down Dish Network's AutoHop service, a DVR that allows viewers to skip commercials that recorded prime-time shows.

The ruling, handed down by Judge Dolly Gee, was sealed and the companies cannot comment on the case.

However, in a statement confirming that the court denied its request for a preliminary injunction, Fox said the judge agreed that Dish violated Fox's copyright.

"We are gratified the court found the copies Dish makes for its AutoHop service constitute copyright infringement and breach the parties' contract. We are disappointed the court erred in finding that Fox's damages were not suitable for a preliminary injunction," Fox said in an emailed statement. "We intend to appeal that portion of the court's decision, as well as the court's separate findings concerning the PrimeTime Anytime service. Dish is marketing and benefitting from an unauthorized VOD service that illegally copies Fox's valuable programming."

Dish took issue with Fox's interpretation of the ruling, saying in a press release that Dish customers cannot be liable for copyright infringement and that the copies made do not infringe on Fox's exclusive reproduction rights under federal copyright law. 

"The ruling underscores the U.S. Supreme Court's 'Betamax' decision, with the court confirming a consumer's right to enjoy television as they want, when they want, including the right to skip commercials, if they so choose," said Dish evp and general counsel Stanton Dodge.

The ruling followed oral arguments made in September.

Since Dish introduced AutoHop in May, TV networks Fox, CBS and NBC hit the roof, immediately filing a suit in Los Angeles charging AutoHop with violating copyrights. ABC brought its claim against AutoHop in New York.

Networks see their fight with Dish as nothing less than a fight for their very survival and the business of ad-supported TV.

Consumer groups see it differently. "Consumers have a right to record television programs and watch them later in the manner of their choosing," said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney for Public Knowledge.

Dish is going full speed ahead with AutoHop, taking out full page ads that all but taunt the networks, which have refused to air Dish's spots promoting the commercial-killing service: "It's not about skipping commercials. It's about having the choice," read the copy in a Washington Post ad that ran in September and on the website. "See the ads they refuse to air at dish.com/choice."