Broadcasters Ask D.C. Judge To Hold FilmOn X In Contempt

TV broadcasters officially asked U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer to hold online video company FilmOn X in contempt for streaming TV programs in Massachusetts earlier this month.

“FilmOnX’s apparently deliberate decision to stream broadcasts of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programming over the Internet in Boston, in open defiance of this court’s preliminary injunction, constitutes contempt and should be treated as such,” the broadcasters argue in papers filed on Thursday.

The television companies are urging Collyer to impose “strong and meaningful sanctions” against FilmOn X, owned by billionaire Alki David.

Last month, Collyer granted the broadcasters' request for an order prohibiting FilmOn X from streaming TV shows anywhere in the country, except for three states: New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

After she issued the injunction, the rival streaming video company Aereo defeated a request by Hearst for a similar prohibition in New England. FilmOn X then unsuccessfully asked Collyer to revise the ban. The company also began testing its service in the Boston area, in hopes that Collyer would do so.

Instead, Collyer ordered FilmOn X to explain why it shouldn't be held in contempt of court.

FilmOn X said in papers filed this week that it “substantially complied” with Collyer's ban on the service. “At worst, FilmOn X’s testing of its software inadvertently allowed a limit number of users ... to access copyrighted programming for a brief period of time,” FilmOn X wrote. FilmOn X also is appealing Collyer's prohibition to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Like the Barry Diller-backed Aereo, FilmOn X says it relies on thousands of tiny antennas to capture over-the-air TV broadcasts and stream them to users' iPhones and other devices. The companies also allowed users to record programs and watch them later.

TV broadcasters say that both Aereo and FilmOn X are infringing copyright by “publicly” performing TV shows. But the startups argue that the streams are “private” because they are made on a one-antenna-to-user basis.

So far, Aereo has defeated broadcasters' requests for injunctions in New York and Boston. But broadcasters have obtained injunctions against FilmOn X in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

TV broadcasters recently asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the pro-Aereo decision by the New York-based 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the only appellate court so far to rule on the technology. The Supreme Court hasn't yet said whether it will take the case.

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