Judge Signals TROAgainst FilmOn Station Streaming

A New York judge Monday said she was granting a temporary restraining order against FilmOn, the online streaming video site, a source in the courtroom said.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the federal court for the Southern District of New York, signaled Monday that she was granting the restraining order, but had not yet issued it.

The Big Four nets and their associated studios filed suit last month after FilmOn Sept. 27 launched a $9.95-per-month high-definition service (actually it launched in standard-def, then upgraded) that included what it called "premium free to air television channels" including from CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, KCAL and KTLA, as well as various international satellite channels.

The issue of how online video services are going to be treated when it comes to FCC regs and copyright laws could be crucial to the future of online video, which many, including the current FCC chairman, argue will be an increasingly important delivery platform.

In a September interview with B&C, founder Alki David conceded that he had not negotiated individual carriage deals with the broadcasters, as cable operators must per FCC retrans rules, though for some other content he does have deals.

Like ivi TV, which also streams TV station signals without paying retrans fees and which has also been sued by broadcasters, FilmOn argues that it fits the definition of cable system when it comes to the statutory license to retransmit broadcast signals over the air per U.S. Copyright law, but that it is not a cable system when it comes to the Communications Act requirement to obtain express permission from a station before such retransmission.

The broadcasters and studios say the company does not have the right to stream the stations or the underlying copyrighted content and asked the court for a declaratory judgment that that is the case, as well as the preliminary order that would require it to stop, the latter which at press time appeared to have been granted.

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.