Dish’s Ad-Skipping Litigation Going Bi-Coastal9 Jul, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel
A federal judge in New York has approved continued litigation of separate lawsuits filed by broadcasters against Dish Network regarding Dish’s ad-skipping digital video recorder.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ruled July 9 that copyright infringement and breach of contract suits filed in May against Dish by Fox Television, CBS and NBC Universal can proceed in California. At the same time, a separate suit filed by Dish against the networks regarding the validity of its AutoHop technology will be heard in Swain’s Manhattan court room.
AutoHop technology is available only on Dish's high-definition Hopper DVR. It enables subscribers on an opt-in basis to automatically delete TV ads on recorded primetime network programming. It does not allow viewers to skip ads during the intial "live" broadcast.
Swain issued a temporary restraining order May 30 against the networks in order to first hear a request for declaratory judgment by Dish, which believed its voluntary AutoHop service is legal. Englewood, Colo.-based Dish filed its suit first against the studios (including ABC TV) after they refused to air its TV spots touting AutoHop.
Fox said in a statement it welcomed its day in court. The network characterized itself as a “true victim” in the case due to Dish’s marketing of technology with the “clear goal” of breaching its license, violating copyrights and “destroying” the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television business.
“[This] damages not only Fox and the other major networks, but also the hundreds of local stations around the country,” the network said in a statement. “We look forward to trying and winning the case on its merits.”
In a statement, Dish general counsel R. Stanton Dodge said the satellite operator looked forward to litigating the cases regardless of venue.
“It has been 28 years since the Supreme Court’s ‘Betamax’ decision held that a viewer, in the privacy of their home, could record a television show to watch later,” Stanton said. “The court ruled that ‘time-shifting’ constituted a fair use of copyrighted television programming. Those Betamax users could permissibly fast-forward through commercials on recorded shows — just as DVR users do today. Dish will stand behind consumers and their right to skip commercials, something they have been doing since the invention of the remote control.”
Last month, Dish CEO Joseph Clayton told attendees at the 2012 CEA Line Shows that the AutoHop is “an extension of what consumers already do, skip commercials on shows they record.”