Judge Crushes Firms Craving to Stream TV
Washington -- The Canadian Web site iCraveTV shut down its
local-TV signal streaming service after a federal judge in Pittsburgh slapped the company
with a temporary restraining order about 48 hours prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXIV
Toronto-based iCraveTV was sued Jan. 20 by the NFL, the
NBA, major Hollywood studios, CBS, ABC and Fox for retransmitting Buffalo, N.Y., TV
signals over the Internet without compensating copyright owners that hold distribution
rights to the programming.
In a two-page ruling late Jan. 28, U.S. District Judge
Donald E. Ziegler ordered iCraveTV to stop infringing on the plaintiffs' copyrighted
programming and to provide them with "copies of all their server logs." He
ordered iCraveTV to post a bond of $25,000 and file a report with the court no later than
Feb. 2 demonstrating compliance with the order.
"Judge Ziegler's ruling reaffirms that this is a
simple case about theft," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture
Association of America, in a statement. "This is first-step victory for creative
artists, consumers and copyright owners everywhere."
Apparently iCraveTV is complying with Ziegler's order. It
removed the TV signal portal and posted the following notice: "Access to stations and
listings is not available at this time."
In a Jan. 28 statement, iCraveTV president William Craig
said: "We have received the order of Judge Ziegler of U.S. District Court that was
issued this evening. We are complying fully with the order. We are considering all of our
strategic, technological and legal options. We have no further comment at this time."
The company is complying even though some question whether
a U.S court has jurisdiction over a Canada-based Web site.
Daniel Boehnen, a Chicago copyright attorney with
McDonnell, Boehnen, Hulbert & Berghoff, said iCraveTV has U.S. citizens associated
with the company who could be forced to comply with any ruling handed down by Ziegler that
may not apply strictly to the video-streaming company.
"Those (iCraveTV) people as individuals have to make
darn sure that the judge's orders are not disregarded, because they may be held
responsible otherwise," Boehnan said. "The judge could level penalties against
iCrave. I would expect the NFL and the plaintiffs would try to enforce that judgment
against assets of these individuals."
On Feb. 16, the U.S. House of Representatives'
Telecommunications Subcommittee is planning to hold a hearing on video streaming over the
Internet, including iCraveTV's actions.
More legal troubles are ahead for iCraveTV. Last week,
Canadian broadcasters filed for an injunction against iCraveTV's parent, TVRadioNow Corp.,
and sought $75 million in statutory and punitive damages.
"Bill Craig has no place left to hide," said
Michael McCabe, president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, in a
statement. "The full weight of Canadian and American law is now being brought to bear
against him and his renegade operation."
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