Despite its best legal efforts today, Fox didn’t get a judge to shut down Dish Network’s ad-skipping Autohop and Primetime Anytime features. After hearing arguments from both sides, federal Judge Dolly Gee said she would take the broadcaster’s preliminary injunction request under consideration. A decision could come anytime starting next week. For Fox, that injunction cannot come soon enough. “This is going to grow like a brush fire if it is not stopped,” said Fox lawyer Richard Stone to the court today. Introduced in May by Dish, AutoHop allows subscribers to leap past commercials in programs that have been recorded off network TV the day before. CBS, NBC and Fox have all filed copyright infringement suits against Dish to get the service stopped. Twentieth Century Fox Films Corp. and Fox Television Holdings’ lawyer argued in documents filed on August 22 (read it here) that the product is in “violation of the express terms and conditions of its contracts with Fox and federal copyright law.”
Dish lawyers contend that part of the issue is Fox and other broadcasters are resisting new technology just the way the VCR and later the DVR were initially resisted by the industry. “The question is it somehow unlawful to do something to make it easier for the consumer?” said Annette Hurst. “You can’t come in here and take away the rights consumers have had for 30 years. This is not A Clockwork Orange, you can’t make people sit there with their eyes propped open to watch commercials,” the attorney added. “This is not a fast forward button, this is clearly something different,” said Stone. “They are competing unfairly with our licenses with Hulu, Amazon, iTunes and Netflix,” he claimed. Stone also added that DirecTV and others are strongly considering services like Autohop to stay competitive with Dish. “We are asking that the parties be reverted to the status quo before the Autohop,” Stone said. The parties are also fighting over when a trial on the matter should start. Fox has proposed starting next summer. Dish is aiming for the fall. Fox is represented by Richard Stone, Andrew Thomas and David Singer of LA firm Jenner & Block. Annette Hurst and Peter Bicks of from San Francisco’s Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe represent Dish Network.