PBS Station Countersues FilmOn X

by , Jan 21, 2014, 4:09 PM
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The PBS station Window to the World Communications is asking a federal judge in Illinois to ban the “repeat infringer” FilmOn X from streaming the broadcaster's TV shows.

FilmOn X has a “long history of violating copyright owners’ exclusive rights,” the broadcaster says in in new court papers alleging copyright infringement. Window to the World, based in Chicago, brings the claim in response to FilmOn X's request for a declaratory judgment that it doesn't infringe copyright.

FilmOn X filed a preemptive lawsuit last November, arguing that its streaming TV service is merely “a modern high-tech version of the traditional TV antennas.” The star-tup did so after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Window to the World.

Like its Barry Diller-backed rival Aereo, FilmOn Xallows users to stream over-the-air TV shows to iPhones, iPads and other devices. The Web-based companies also let users “record” shows and watch them later.

Broadcasters are suing both companies for allegedly infringing copyright by publicly performing programs programs without a license. Only copyright holders are allowed to publicly perform programs.

The companies counter that their services are legal, due to their technology, which relies on thousands of tiny antennas to capture and stream over-the-air broadcasts. The companies say their streams are “private,” because they are made on an antenna-to-user basis.

So far, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has sided with Aereo, as has a federal district court judge in
Boston. In both of those actions, courts have rejected broadcasters' requests to prohibit Aereo from operating.

But judges in Washington, D.C. and California have ruled against FilmOn X and enjoined the company from streaming programs owned by the broadcasters that filed suit. FilmOn X has appealed both of those rulings.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear the broadcasters' appeal of the 2nd Circuit's decision. That court's decision, expected by this June, could resolve questions about whether the services are legal.

Meantime, the litigation in Illinois is continuing before U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras. While he could decide to place the matter on hold pending the Supreme Court decision, neither company has requested that.

Instead, Windows to the World last week filed a counterclaim accusing FilmOn of infringing copyright.
In its countersuit, the broadcaster emphasizes FilmOn X's checkered legal history, arguing that it has “repeatedly defied court orders” prohibiting it from streaming TV shows. Last year, FilmOn X was held in contempt of court by U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer in Washington, D.C., who found that the company ignored her order by streaming TV shows in the Boston area.

Window to the World adds that it will suffer “great and irreparable injury that cannot fully be compensated or measured in money,” unless FilmOn X is ordered to stop operating.

1 comment on "PBS Station Countersues FilmOn X".

  1. Paul Robinson from Viridian Development Corporation
    commented on: January 29, 2014 at 10:20 p.m.
    The judge in Washington DC is wrong to find FilmOnX in contempt. There is a "circuit split" and the courts in the Boston area have found the practice to be legal. The U.S. Supreme Court has to settle this because the circuit split means the practice is legal in some parts of the country while not legal in others. You can't have this with Federal law, it has to be uniform or people do not know what is or isn't permitted. You can know whether a particular state's law does or does not permit something, but you can't have this at the federal level any more than you could have state courts saying a particular practice was allowed by state law in some counties and prohibited in some others.

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