Siding with TV broadcasters, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. on Thursday ordered online video service FilmOn X to stop streaming TV shows.
“This Court concludes that the Copyright Act forbids FilmOn X from retransmitting plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs over the Internet,” U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer said in a 35-page ruling. She ordered FilmOn X, previously called Aereokiller, to stop offering its streaming service in every state except New York, Vermont and Connecticut.
FilmOn X, like its rival Aereo, allows people to stream over-the-air TV to iPhones and other devices. The services' users also are able to use the service like a DVR by “recording” programs for later viewing. Both companies are facing litigation throughout the country by TV broadcasters, which argue that the Web-based services illegally transmit copyrighted material without a license.
FilmOn X and Aereo say their services don't infringe copyright. They argue that they merely provide the technology that enables consumers to engage in legal activity -- watching and recording free over-the-air TV. Both companies rely on thousands of small antennas to capture the TV broadcasts, then stream shows to users on an antenna-to-subscriber basis.
FilmOn and Aereo argue that anyone is allowed to install an antenna to view over-the-air TV, and that the one-to-one nature of the streams means they are not public performances.
So far, Aereo has prevailed in federal court in New York, where the 2nd Circuit ruled that the company is not publicly performing the TV shows.
Collyer wrote that she disagreed with that interpretation. She wrote that FilmOn X's system “is hardly akin to an individual user stringing up a television antenna on the roof.” She added: “Moreover, every broadcast of a television program (whether cable, satellite, over-the-air, over the internet, or otherwise) could be described as 'generated from the same copy' -- the original source.”
Collyer's ruling is consistent with a decision by a federal judge in California, but conflicts with the decision of a federal appellate court in the 2nd Circuit -- which covers New York, Vermont and Connecticut.