D.C. Court Delays FilmOn Hearing Until Supremes Decide Aereo

A D.C. federal appeals court has granted a broadcaster request that it delay a decision on a D.C. Circuit Court's injunction against FilmOn until the Supreme Court rules on the legality of similar service, Aereo.

Fox and others had asked the court on Jan. 15 to defer the decision and suspend the briefing schedule for the Aereo appeal. On Jan. 23, the court agreed to grant the broadcaster motion to hold the case in abeyance for now.

It signaled that the parties would have until 30 days after that Supreme Court decision—which is expected to come in June—to file motions governing future proceedings.

On Sept. 5, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer enjoined FilmOn from delivering TV station signals in all but the Second Circuit, which had denied an injunction against similar Aereo. FilmOn appealed that decision to the D.C. federal appeals court.

FilmOn and Aereo both argue they do not have to pay a copyright fee for broadcast programming because they are not transmitting a performance, but instead providing technology to remotely access a recording of broadcast TV station signals that users are free to access and copy without payment.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide if they are right, or whether broadcasters are correct when they argue it is a public performance subject to copyright payments.

The Supreme Court decision will not only help determine FilmOn's fate, but may also affect the whole remote storage ecosystem, depending on how it is decided.

Also at issue in the case is a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Cablevision case that subscriber access to remotely copied and stored programming did not constitute a public performance, much as Aereo and FilmOn argue remote access to their remotely copied and stored TV station signals is not a public performance. The Supreme Court refused to weigh in on a studio challenge to that decision, but may do so this time around.

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.