FilmOn X, backed by billionaire Alki David, says in court papers that the recent Supreme Court ruling against rival company Aereo supports the view that the streaming video startups are “cable systems,” which qualify for licenses.
“As a cable system, FilmOn X is now entitled to the benefits of a compulsory license,” the company says in a status update filed on Wednesday with U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kocoras in the Northern District of Illinois. FilmOn X adds that it has already filed an application with the U.S. Copyright Office for licenses in 14 broadcast markets.
FilmOn X, like Aereo, offers consumers the ability to stream television shows to smartphones and other devices via remote antennas. Both companies are embroiled in litigation with broadcast networks, which argue that the startups infringe copyright by transmitting television shows without licenses.
All of the lawsuits involving FilmOn X, including the case in front of Kocoras, were placed on hold pending a Supreme Court decision in the
first case broadcasters filed -- a lawsuit brought in federal court in New York against Aereo.
The Supreme Court recently sided against Aereo in that matter, rejecting the company's argument that it merely offered remote digital antennas. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the company infringed copyright by publicly performing television shows.
Justice Stephen Breyer said in the majority opinion that Aereo's service resembled the service offered by cable companies, which must obtain licenses to transmit television shows. Aereo and FilmOn X now say that ruling means they are actually “cable systems” and allowed to stream television shows over the Internet, provided that they pay fees to broadcasters.
The U.S. Copyright Office said earlier this week that it disagrees with that interpretation of the ruling. But the Copyright Office also said its position could change, depending on developments in Congress or the pending lawsuits.
The matter before Kocoras dates to last November, when FilmOn X filed a preemptive lawsuit against Window to the World Communications, a Chicago-based PBS station. FilmOn X sought a declaratory judgment that its service was legal. Window to the World then countersued for copyright infringement.
Window to the World tells Kocoras that it doesn't believe FilmOn X is entitled to a mandatory license. “The Supreme Court did not hold -- as FilmOn claims -- that Aereo is in fact a cable company, nor did it hold that Aereo is entitled to a compulsory license,” the broadcaster writes in court papers.
This story has been updated.