Big Four Sue FilmOn

The Big Four networks and their associated studios
have filed suit against online video streamer FilmOn in a New York
District Court, saying its conduct has caused, and is causing them,
"irreparable harm."

The effort follows on the heels of many of the same
parties--plus others--to block streaming site ivi TV
from doing essentially the same thing, which is streaming local TV stations
signals--as part of an online pay package--without having negotiated
retransmission consent payments with the stations.

The broadcasters and studios say the company
does not have the right to stream the stations or the underlying copyrighted
content and has asked the court for a declaratory judgment that that is the
case, as well as a preliminary injunction against the conduct.

FilmOn has been streaming the stations since
Sept. 27. according to that company, and Friday was planning to launch
HD versions.

As with their arguments against ivi TV, the
plaintiffs allege that the timing of the launch was to coincide with the
beginning of the fall season, thereby "misappropriating some of the most
important copyrighted content at a critical time of the year."

In an interview with B&C last week, FilmOn Chairman Alki David
said that he has not negotiated individual carriage deals with the
broadcasters, though for some other content he does have deals.

He argues that his service fits the definition of
a cable system when it comes to the statutory license to retransmit broadcast
signals over the air per U.S. copyright law, but that it is not a cable system
when it comes to the Communications Act requirement to obtain express
permission from a station before such retransmission.

He said he saw the site as a business-to-business aid to broadcast and
cable programmers, but was not shying away from a fight. "If somebody wants a
fight, bring it on," he said.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.