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PrimeTime 24 legal fees: $2.5 million

In a final blow to satellite TV wholesaler PrimeTime 24, a federal judge in Florida ordered the company to pay $2.5 million in attorney fees and related costs to broadcast plaintiffs.

Judge Lenore Nesbitt of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida issued the ruling last Thursday, which should be the final segment of a case that was drawn out over several years. Broadcasters - including CBS and Fox - sued PrimeTime 24 in March 1997, complaining that PrimeTime 24 was distributing their local TV signals via satellite to TV households who could get the signals over the air, violating copyright law.

The court ruled that PrimeTime 24 "engaged in a nationwide willful or repeated pattern or practice of infringing copyrights... and made a conscious decision to flout the law when it was well aware of what the law required."

Nesbitt ruled in favor of broadcasters in July 1998, but only decided last week to close the case and require PrimeTime 24 to pay fees and costs. - Paige Albiniak