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TV Station Streamer Has Industry Seeing Red

The National Association of Broadcasters says that if the allegations against Seattle-based online video

subscription service ivi Inc.--that it is retransmitting TV stations signals in Seattle and New York over the

'net without authorization--are true, it is illegal signal piracy.

"It is blatantly illegal to steal broadcasters' copyrighted works and signals," said NAB Spokesman Dennis

Wharton in a statement. "We strongly support broadcasters and their program suppliers in their efforts to

combat copyright abuse and signal piracy."

NAB was responding to ivi's request for a declaratory ruling FROM a Seattle U.S. District Court

that retransmitting TV station signals over the web was not copyright
infringement. Ivi is essentially arguing that its service is, and isn't a
cable service.
Ivi says
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 retranmssion.

The legal
move by ivi came after TV nets sent cease-and desist-letters. According
to ivi spokesman Hal Bringman, those filing letters included
NBC-Universal, CBS, Disney, ABC, The CW Television Stations,
Inc., Fox Television, Major League Baseball, Twentieth Century Fox Film
Corporation, WGBH,, and Fisher Communications.

In 2000,
Wharton pointed out, online video streamer was enjoined by a
federal court from retransmnitting TV station over the Web after
broadcasters and other content providers complained.
A federal court enjoined the broadcasts, after which iCrave pulled the
plug on the service.

Ivi Inc. announced in a release dated Sept. 13
that it was launching "highly disruptive software" that would deliver
live TV to the Interent, including affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox,
The CW and PBS.

"We understand the NAB's point of view and welcome this opportunity to enlighten them," said ivi CEO Todd Weaver. "Ivi TV filed a lawsuit, because we were wrongly accused of copyright infringement, an accusation disruptive to our business. We needed resolution of these issues right away," he told B&C in an e-mailed statement. "We believe the copyright claims are unsubstantiated and are really just camouflage for trying to stifle innovation and competition.

"Furthermore, we pay broadcasters in accordance with the law, just like cable. This is not about copyright, this is about competition. Congress created the compulsory licensing scheme for cable systems, to distribute broadcast content to the masses. We intend to increase viewer numbers and would welcome opportunities to work with the Broadcasters."

"Broadcasters fought against cable companies, then joined them. Broadcasters then fought against satellite companies, then joined them. Now it is our turn...."