Dish Can’t Skip Law

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Dish Network will have to fight its ad-skipping
battles in a California court, after a federal judge
last week said three television networks that have
sued to block its Auto Hop digital video recorder
feature could move forward with their cases there.

The three networks — NBC, Fox and CBS
— filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles on
May 24, claiming the Auto Hop function of its
Hopper DVR, which allows customers to speed
through commercials at the touch of a button,
violated its copyrights and retransmission-consent
agreements. Satellite-TV provider Dish
had filed a suit minutes earlier in New York federal
court — against the three networks and The
Walt Disney Co.’s ABC — claiming that content
providers impeded its intellectual property.

Dish had wanted the cases to be tried in New
York, where an Appeals Court judge had ruled in
2008 that a network DVR created by Cablevision
Systems did not violate programmers’ copyrights.

The New York court granted Dish a temporary
restraining order against Fox on May 30, which
prevented the California litigation from moving
forward while Dish’s request was evaluated.

In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Laura
Taylor Swain ruled that part of the suit belonged in
California, adding that Dish’s New York court filing “was motivated by a fear of imminent legal action by
the networks and was, thus, improperly anticipatory.”

In a statement, Dish said it will continue with
the case.

“Regardless of the venue, we look forward to proceeding
with this case, recognizing that 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,” Dish
said in a statement.

Fox was obviously pleased with the outcome
and said it looked forward to its day in court.

“Now we move on to the real issue at hand —
demonstrating that Dish Network has created and
marketed a product with the clear goal of breaching
its license with Fox, violating copyrights and
destroying the fundamental underpinnings of
the broadcast television business — which damages
not only Fox and the other major networks,
but also the hundreds of local stations around the
country,” Fox said in a statement. “We look forward
to trying and winning the case on its merits.”