UPDATE, 3:35 PM: The settlement deal that Alki David signed with CBS and other broadcasters in two copyright infringement cases is “back off,” he tells me. CBS “renegged” on the agreement by releasing it in a way designed to embarrass him, he says. “If they want to do that, I’m reneging on any agreement and I’m fighting them.” He signed the settlement on July 27 because it only required him to withdraw from his copyright infringement suit against CBS — meaning that it could continue without him. Also he says he wants to do business with CBS and other broadcasters in a new enterprise similar to Aereo. But now he says that he’s “going to go all out to drag [CBS] through the court system,” charging that the broadcaster has a “culture of deceit and underhandedness.” CBS declined to respond.

As for the new business: David says he’s about to introduce a service with his FilmOn brand that — like the Barry Diller-backed Aereo — would use antennas to capture local broadcast signals and stream them, along with other programming, to subscribers. It plans to charge $5.95 a month just for local broadcast TV, and $11.95 a month for a larger service that includes news, sports, and an array of European channels, he says. One difference from Aereo: his antennas are larger and, he says, more clearly capable of providing separate reception for each user — a key requirement to possibly escape a copyright infringement verdict. (That’s central to the case broadcasters have raised against Aereo). David says he’s prepared to launch the service soon in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Minneapolis. David says that he’s prepared to put up $50M over the next few years to fund promotion costs and team up with other unnamed backers to support a multi-national venture with $1B in capital expenditures over the next five years.

PREVIOUS, 2:15 PM: The long, strange copyright infringement battle between CBS and FilmOn founder Alki David appears to be over, at least for now. The former actor (he was in the 2008 film The Bank Job) who became a billionaire as a digital media entrepreneur agreed to a settlement that bars FilmOn from streaming broadcast network programming, and requires him to pay $1.6M to the major providers including CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC. In addition, David said he will drop a copyright infringement suit against CBS Interactive. David’s agreement to scrap his suit comes nearly three weeks after a U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles allowed it to proceed but on just one of his three counts. The fight goes back to late 2010: The major networks sued FilmOn for copyright infringement after it began to stream their programming as part of a $10 a month subscription service. A U.S. District Court slapped a restraining order on FilmOn. Then, in early 2011, David and several musicians sued CBS. A site owned by CBS Interactive, Download.com, had distributed software for Limewire — a peer-to-peer file sharing service that was itself found guilty of inducing users to infringe on copyrights. David, set up a web site that alleged CBS was guilty of hypocrisy, as well as a violation of the law. It’s an odd time for David to drop the suit. He seemed to have the upper hand a few weeks ago when Judge Dale Fischer allowed him to proceed saying that it was “not a particularly close or challenging case for inducement based on the facts alleged.” CBS says that “as far as we are concerned, this issue is fully and completely resolved”.

Hart D. Fisher
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2 years
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