FilmOn Settles Battle With Broadcasters

Online video distributor FilmOn has settled its long-running copyright battle with broadcasters, the Web company's attorney confirmed Tuesday.

News of the settlement comes soon after a federal appellate court ruled that FilmOn wasn't eligible for a compulsory cable license. Terms of the deal are confidential, according to FilmOn's attorney, Ryan Baker.

The deal appears to bring an end to an 8-year-old battle over whether FilmOn, owned by billionaire Alki David, can legally stream TV programs to consumers without the broadcasters' consent.

In 2010, FilmOn launched an early version of its streaming service, prompting the first round of lawsuits by broadcasters. FilmOn argued that it should be considered a "cable system," and therefore entitled to a compulsory license.

The companies lost that battle in 2012, when the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled that ivi wasn't a cable system because it didn't limit its streams to specific geographic locales. The appellate court said in its decision that compulsory licenses are only available to systems that transmit shows to restricted markets.



Later that year, FilmOn re-launched using a system similar to the defunct Aereo. That platform relied on individual mini-antennas to capture over-the-air shows in particular locales and stream them to consumers.

Broadcasters including Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS sued FilmOn and Aereo for copyright infringement, arguing that they couldn't transmit shows without first obtaining licenses. Both companies stopped streaming unlicensed programs in 2014, soon after the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo infringed copyright by transmitting TV shows without a license.

Aereo suspended operations altogether, but FilmOn still streams programs in the public domain, and programs it licenses. Although FilmOn stopped offering some television programs, it continued to battle the broadcasters in court.

In its most recent arguments, the company contended that it should be considered a cable system due to the Supreme Court's 2014 decision -- which said Aereo's platform was "for all practical purposes a traditional cable system."

A trial judge in California agreed with FilmOn, writing that the Supreme Court's characterization of the technology is "about as close a statement directly in defendants' favor as could be made."

The 9th Circuit reversed that decision in March, citing to statements by the Copyright Office, which determined that Web-only companies aren't eligible for a cable license.

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