UPDATE, 3:12 PM: The legal actions are flying. Dish Network filed a complaint of its own this afternoon to protect its Hopper DVR (read it here). And now NBC and CBS have joined the fray with suits against Dish, similar to the one Fox filed earlier. Dish asked the U.S. District Court in New York for a jury trial and declaratory judgement that the Auto Hop ad skipper is “in full compliance with copyright law and its re-broadcast agreements” with ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBCUniversal. “Auto Hop is a more efficient way of achieving what consumers already do with standard DVRs,” the complaint says. Dish adds that CBS, NBC and Fox had accepted ads for the Hopper before it it announced the Auto Hop feature this month. At that point they “began rejecting advertising from DISH featuring the Hopper or Auto Hop, claiming that the advertisements are contrary to their interests.” As a result, “DISH is reasonably apprehensive that it will soon be the target of litigation” while the networks’ public attacks on the DVR “create a real and immediate controversy over the proper interpretation” of its contracts with the networks.
NBC took its case to the same U.S. District Court in California where Fox filed its suit. “The U.S. broadcast networks cannot provide the news, sports and entertainment programming they have historically created and offered if the revenue-generating ads are systematically blotted out on an unauthorized basis by distributors like DISH,” it says.
Activist group Public Knowledge calls the network actions to thwart Auto Hop “a frontal assault on home recording and fair use. Ordinary consumers are in its crosshairs, while Fox demands technological stagnation from innovators.”
PREVIOUS, 1:51 PM: Fox Broadcasting and its film and television station corporate siblings told a U.S. District Court in California that Dish Network‘s Hopper DVR infringes on Fox’s copyrights and breaches the companies’ distribution contract. The suit (read it here) singles out the device’s ability to record all of the major networks’ primetime shows, and then automatically skip over ads two hours or more after a show has been recorded. “This lawsuit is not about DISH enhancing consumer choice,” Fox says. “By stealing FOX’s broadcast programming to create a bootleg video-on-demand service for all network primetime programming, DISH is undermining legitimate consumer choice by undercutting authorized on-demand services.” If Dish isn’t stopped, then it “will ultimately destroy the advertising-supported ecosystem that provides consumers with the choice to enjoy free over-the-air, varied, high-quality primetime broadcast programming.”
The suit says that Fox has no problem with consumers recording individual shows. “A key difference is that DVRs are controlled by the consumer, not the cable or satellite provider.” With the Hopper, the No. 2 satellite company “took active steps to encourage its subscribers to…infringe FOX’s copyrights.” Dish’s device also includes a Sling adapter that streams shows to customers. “By making its bootleg, commercial-free, on-demand programming available over the Internet and on mobile devices via Sling, DISH is usurping rights it never negotiated for and does not possess, in order to compete unfairly with authorized providers such as iTunes and Amazon, who pay for the right to offer commercial-free VOD versions of FOX programming to their customers.” Fox says that it had “no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors” in order to “aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television.”