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Disney’s ABC Asks Judge to Block DISH’s AutoHop

28 Nov, 2012 By: Doug McPherson

NEW YORK – The ABC television network is joining the legal fray over the DISH Network Corp.’s ad-skipping TV recording feature, two weeks after a federal judge denied a similar bid by a different broadcaster, Bloomberg News reports.

ABC said it will seek a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, according to a filing Friday in a Manhattan federal court. On Nov. 7, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles rejected a motion for an injunction by News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting. Fox appealed the ruling.

Bloomberg reports that the dispute over DISH’s ad-skipping technology, which broadcasters warn threatens their very survival, is being played out in courts on both coasts. DISH sued ABC, CBS and Comcast’s NBC in New York in May seeking a judgment that its AutoHop feature doesn’t violate network copyrights or contracts. Fox, CBS and NBC sued DISH in Los Angeles for copyright infringement and breach of contract on the same day.

DISH’s AutoHop, introduced in May, lets viewers skip all ads automatically with the touch of a button. Viewers don’t even have to manually fast-forward through the ads. The broadcasters claim that AutoHop “will ultimately destroy the advertiser-supported ecosystem” the networks depend on for revenue. 

DISH said in court papers that AutoHop “complies with DISH’s bargained-for contractual rights,” The company said it pays the networks “hundreds of millions of dollars per year in retransmission fees, collected from its subscriber base, for the right to rebroadcast these signals.”

Judge Gee said, “Although DISH defines some of the parameters of copying for time-shifting purposes, it is ultimately the user who causes the copy to be made.” She also said Fox hadn’t proved there would be “irreparable damage” if no injunction was issued. Any harm to Fox, she said, could be relieved by monetary damages.

In another matter, NBC has asked the New York judge to transfer the AutoHop case to Los Angeles. Swain ruled in July against NBC’s motion to transfer the case, and NBC claims that the legal circumstances have changed since then.

“Having two district courts on separate coasts interpret the same contract would not serve the interests of judicial economy,” NBC said in the motion for the venue change.
DISH, in a reply brief to NBC’s motion, said, “NBC presents no grounds for the court to reconsider its prior ruling.”

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