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Dish Tweaks Hopper Ad-Skipping Feature Amid Lawsuit: Report

Dish Network, which is facing lawsuits from CBS, Fox and NBC over the automatic ad-skipping capabilities built into its Hopper multiroom DVR, has upgraded the feature to give users more control, according to a published report.

The software update, released in last week, may be designed to bolster its legal defense against the broadcasters by adding new user-controlled recording and deletion functions, Variety reported.

According to the report, the default option for AutoHop now is to not skip ads, so a viewer must actively select to zap the commercials. In addition, Dish's Hopper customers can now select which networks they record with PrimeTime Anytime -- whereas the lineups of all four major networks were automatically recorded -- and can delete recordings at any time (whereas they were previously retained on the DVR for eight days).

A Dish spokesman confirmed that the operator distributed software upgrades related to AutoHop but declined to clarify beyond describing them as serving to "enhance consumer choice," Variety reported.

After Dish introduced AutoHop, NBC, Fox and CBS sued Dish on May 24, claiming the Auto Hop ad-skipping feature violated their copyrights and retransmission-consent agreements. Dish the same day sued the three networks and ABC, alleging the content providers were trying to "stifle" its service.

Dish had requested the cases be tried in New York, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit had ruled in 2008 that a network DVR created by Cablevision Systems did not violate programmers' copyrights. However, earlier this month a judge ruled that the case would be heard in California, saying that Dish's New York court filing "was motivated by a fear of imminent legal action by the networks and was, thus, improperly anticipatory." Dish's claims against ABC, though, will proceed in New York.