Cablevision: Fox is Trying to Intimidate Nonprofits, Government

Cablevision said Friday Fox was trying to "silence public discussion" by accusing the cable operator of inducing copyright infringement. Cablevision said it was doing nothing of the sort.

Fox was responding to Cablevision's suggestion that a government or nonprofit entity could retransmit Fox's coverage of world Series games online as a public service without getting retrans consent or violating Copyright laws, so long as they did not charge and did not gain a "commercial advantage" by the streaming.

Fox disagreed, and warned Cablevision it could be inducing infringement.

Responding to Fox's charge, Cablevision said Friday it was glad the proposal had spurred a public debate, but said it was "utterly dismayed" by Fox's take on it.

"[B]y asking nonprofits and governmental entities to decide for themselves whether to make use of the Section 111(a)(5) exemption, Cablevision has not 'induced' any conduct at all, let alone conduct that violates the Copyright Act," the cable provider said.

"On the substance, Fox's position is absurdly self-serving," Cablevision said in a statement. "It is not for Fox to decide which provisions of the Copyright Act are too 'obscure' to matter. Fox does not explain, nor could it, why free Internet streaming by a nonprofit or governmental entity would fall within that prohibition," said Cablevision, and renewed its call. 
"Fox appears to be trying to intimidate nonprofits and governmental entities.... Cablevision again calls upon such entities to examine the law for themselves and decide whether they wish to make use of this important provision of the Copyright Act to webcast the World Series."

A spokesman for nonprofit Public Knowledge, which along with Cablevision is a member of the retrans reform group American TV Alliance, said it did not plan to take Cablevision up on its offer, though it, too, did not see any copyright barrier to doing so.

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.