FilmOn Seeks Illinois Court Ruling that Service Is OK

Add Illinois to the courts that have been asked to weigh in on Internet delivery of TV stations.

FilmOn has asked an Illinois U.S. District Court for a declaratory judgment that its Internet-based remote TV station signal distribution service is not an illegal violation of copyright.

FilmOn filed the petition after the owners of noncommercial WTTW TV Chicago sent a notice of copyright infringement to the company and threatened to sue if FilmOn does not stop delivering its stations over the 'net, according to FilmOn.

Both FilmOn and similar service Aereo are being challenged in various courts by broadcasters and studios who say the companies are delivering a performance without compensation, which is a violation of copyright.

FilmOn and Aereo contend it is just remote access to the antennas and recording devices broadcast TV viewers are legally allowed to use to access and record free signals.

The answer to that question will help shape the future of video delivery.

A Massachusetts court and the Second Circuit Court of appeals have refused to enjoin such services, arguing they are not performances. Courts in California and Washington see it differently and have blocked the service in their jurisdictions.

FilmOn wants the court to declare that FilmOn does not constitute copyright violation.

"Shame on these people. They were entrusted with the public's spectrum and call themselves a not for profit organization," FilmOn founder Alki David said. A station spokesperson had no comment.

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.