Content Owners, Broadcasters Sue Ivi TV For Copyright Infringement

Content owners and broadcasters and other content owners have filed a copyright infringement suit against Ivi TV in a New York federal district court, saying the service violates copyright law. They also want the court to shut down the service while it considers the suit.

The issue of protecting online content has become increasingly important with the move of more and more video, including TV shows, to the Web.

Filed Sept. 28, the suit, for both copyright infringement and secondary infringement (essentially liability for their subs' infringement), followed ivi TV's launch of its online video pay service two weeks ago, featuring TV station signals from New York and Seattle that the company claims it is within its right to retransmit. Ivi argues that, for purposes of copyright law, it is an online cable provider that is allowed to retransmit the signals, but that it does not fall under the definition of a cable system when it comes to the requirement of negotiating retransmission-consent from individual stations.

"Our complaint filed today with the U.S. District Court of New York underscores our commitment to protect our rights vigorously," said the plaintiffs. "This is a company that's simply stealing our broadcast signals and copyrighted programming and streaming them on the Internet without permission."

The plaintiffs include CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, Disney, Cox, WPIX, and the office of the commissioner of baseball, among various associated studios.

They argue that the Sept. 13 launch, which coincided with the launch of the fall season, "misappropriated some of the most important content [on the stations] at a critical time of the year."

They also point out that the company plans to add more stations every 45 days, including some from L.A., Chicago and San Francisco.

If that happens, they aver, the stations and copyright license holders could suffer "substantial, irremediable losses."
"This is a predictable move by big media to try and stifle innovation and technology, said Ivi TV CEO Todd Weaver in a statement. "We pay broadcasters in accordance with the law, just like cable. This is not about copyright, this is about competition. In an initial knee-jerk reaction, broadcasters fought against cable companies, then joined them. Broadcasters then fought against satellite companies, then joined them. Today, it is our turn. Ivi TV pays broadcasters and we increase their viewership. Broadcasters charge more in advertising in return due to the increase in viewers. It is unfortunate that big media chooses to fight innovation that is legal, pays them, and increases their revenue."

Ivi last week filed its own suit, asking a Seattle court for a declaratory ruling that its service did not infringe on copyrights. Broadcasters said Tuesday that they are filing a motion to have that court dismiss the Ivi suit.

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.