A US judge has ruled that online TV service FilmOn X should be treated like a traditional cable service, to stream programs of the nation’s broadcasters via the Internet.
As consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet to get their televisual fix, the ruling is the first to consider a streaming service akin to a cable provider, and may have huge implications for broadcasters – if it’s upheld by higher courts, of course.
Internet streaming treated is cable TV
Broadcast companies have vehemently litigated against streaming rebroadcasting services, saying they violate their copyrights, and threaten their ability to generated ad revenue and to control subscription fees.
US District judge George Wu in L.A. said in his ruling that FilmOn X should be entitled to a compulsory licenses under the Copyright Act, to retransmit broadcasters’ programs if it meets the lawful requirements.
Recognising the commercial implications of the decision, Wu said he would allow an immediate appeal to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
The judge also left an injunction in place against FilmOn X’s operations, that broadcasters won in 2012, so FilmOn still can’t stream their content pending an appeal.
“The broadcasters have been trying to keep their foot on the throat of innovation”, said FilmOn X’s lawyer, Ryan Baker. “The court’s decision today is a win for technology and for the American public.”
In a statement, Fox Networks said the opinion contravenes legal precedent and vowed an appeal.
The dispute comes from two lawsuits involving Fox, ABC, CBS, NBCUniversal and several others, filed against FilmOn X in 2012.
The TV networks managed to shut down Aereo, a well known competitor to FilmOn X, when the US Supreme Court said the company violated the broadcasters’ copyrights by retransmitting programs to subscribers over the Internet.
Aereo tried to argue in a federal court that it should be seen as analogous to cable, and eligible for a compulsory license. The judge however disagreed. The company has since gone bankrupt.
Aereo and FilmOn X use similar technology that enables viewers to watch network TV capture via remote antennas and sent over the web.
Larry Banks is a keen follower of technology and finance. He has worked for a variety of online publications, writing about a diverse range of topics including mobile networks, patents, and Internet video delivery technologies.