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Judge Puts Studios on Hold in Ad-Skipping DVR Case

30 May, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A U.S. District Court judge May 30 issued a temporary restraining order on breach of contract and copyright infringement lawsuits filed separately by 20th Century Fox Television, CBS Corp. and NBC Universal against Dish Network regarding its Auto Hop ad-skipping DVR platform.

Judge Laura Swain delayed a hearing of the studios’ cases until July 2 in order to first hear a request for declaratory judgment by Dish, which believes its voluntary Auto Hop 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 Auto Hop.

After days of media executives voicing outrage at the rollout of Auto Hop, the studios last week filed their complaints against Dish in Los Angeles District Court. Auto Hop allows Dish subscribers to voluntarily skip the ads on up to eight days of recorded primetime programming in high-definition. The ad-skipping DVR does not allow users to skip ads during the live broadcast.

Media reports suggest Dish filed its suit in New York after a 2nd Circuit Court there in 2008 ruled in favor of Cablevision, which wanted to roll out a DVR service that stored subscribers’ video-on-demand movies on a remote server.

“We’re pleased that the New York federal court has entered a [temporary restraining order] against Fox until the New York court decides whether the suits filed by Fox, CBS and NBC in California should be enjoined in favor of Dish's suit in New York," R. Stanton Dodge, EVP and general counsel with Dish, said in a statement. “Dish looks forward to presenting its case and prevailing on the merits."

A Fox representative, in a statement, responded by saying the studio looks forward to making its case in court against Dish for copyright infringement and breach of contract.

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