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Dish Outlines 'AutoHop' Ruling

12 Nov, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Dish Network LLC Nov. 12 said last week’s decision by a U.S. District Court judge to deny Fox Broadcasting Co.’s preliminary injunction motion underscored the legality of its ad-skipping technology.

The satellite TV operator disclosed specific redacted rulings by Judge Dolly Gee that previously had been sealed. Gee’s ruling marked the first round in ongoing litigation between Dish, broadcasters and media companies regarding the legality of allowing TV viewers to automatically skip commercials on recorded — not live — network programming.

Dish cited Gee’s ruling in which she outlined that the user — not Dish — must initiate the AutoHop feature that automatically skips commercials on recorded programming. By doing so, Gee wrote that “Fox has not established … the merits of its claim that [PrimeTime AnyTime, or PTAT] directly infringes on its exclusive right to reproduction.”

Dish said Gee wrote that Fox failed to identify how Dish subs using PTAT could be liable for copyright infringement. In addition, Gee found that neither the AutoHop nor PTAT involves actual distribution of unauthorized copies.

“Because PTAT and AutoHop do not involve any actual distribution of unauthorized copies, the court finds that Fox has not established a likelihood of success on the merits of its distribution claim,” Gee wrote.

In addition, the judge found that AutoHop was akin to a digital video recorder, and not a video-on-demand transmission and thereby did not violate terms of the 2010 retransmission consent agreement between Fox and Dish.

Gee also ruled against Fox’s claim that Dish’s copies of recorded programming stored on subscribers’ Whole-Home Hopper DVRs did not constitute copyright infringement and breach the parties’ contract.

Dish said Fox’s claim to contrary ignores the fact that the copies in question are used in “quality assurance” process, and are not broadcast or otherwise shared with subscribers. The satellite TV operator said the “quality assurance” copies are only viewed by a technician to ensure that AutoHop does not accidently delete part of the program.

“The bottom line of the court’s decision is that the AutoHop feature and PTAT will remain available to Dish customers for their continued enjoyment and control of their viewing experience through trial,” Dish said in a statement. “The [judge’s] decision adopted Dish’s position that, ‘at its core, PTAT is little more than a faster, more streamlined way for users to engage in the time-shifting privileges that they have enjoyed since the days of the Betamax.’ Likewise, the [judge’s] decision finds that ‘neither the marking announcements nor the ad-skipping effect of AutoHop implicates any copyright interest or breach of contract on the current record.’” 

Fox has appealed Gee's ruling.

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