Time Warner Cable Seeks Court Ruling To Approve iPad App For Viacom Nets

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Time Warner Cable filed a request for declaratory judgment Thursday in a federal court relating to Viacom cable networks, seeking a ruling that the cable operator has the rights under its carriage agreement to deliver Viacom's programming to any device in a subscriber's home -- while Viacom responded that it sued TWC for breach of contract and copyright violation.

The cable operator filed the case in the US. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

In a statement, Time Warner Cable executive vice president and general counsel Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum said, "We have steadfastly maintained that we have the rights to allow our customers to view this programming in their homes, over our cable systems, without artificial limits on the screens they can use to do so, and we are asking the court to confirm our view. With over 360,000 downloads of our TWCableTV app, it is clear that our customers welcome the convenience and flexibility our new app provides."

Viacom said in a statement, "Viacom has always negotiated rights to distribute our content based on specific technologies and devices to ensure that the unique business issues, such as security, product quality and audience measurement, are properly addressed."

Continued Viacom, "Instead of addressing these issues, Time Warner Cable simply launched the product without a license to distribute our programming through an iPad app. They blatantly grabbed the rights that their competitors have negotiated in good faith to obtain."

TWC launched the app on March 15. Subsequently Viacom sent a cease-and-desist letter to the cable operator, demanding that its programming be removed.

According to Viacom, the cable operator "removed our programming from this service only when they were threatened with a lawsuit and, now, it is asking the Court to declare their brazen acts lawful. Regrettably, all of this has compelled us to file a suit of our own -- as Time Warner Cable refuses to even discuss the business issues. With $5.2 billion in cash from operations last year, Time Warner Cable can certainly afford to provide our programming through this new broadband service without passing along any additional costs to its customers."

Discovery Communications and News Corp.'s Fox Cable Networks also demanded TWC pull their networks; however, they are not named in the TWC request for declaratory judgment. The cable operator removed 12 networks on March 31: Discovery's Animal Planet, Discovery and TLC; Fox's FX and National Geographic Channel; and Viacom's BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nick, Spike and VH1.

The TWCable TV for iPad app currently provides 49 channels, which are available to customers whose subscriptions include them.

Separately, Cablevision Systems launched an iPad app -- which the MSO touted had been downloaded more than 50,000 times in the first five days of its release -- that provides up to 300 live TV channels on the tablet devices in customers' homes.

Regional sports network YES Network said Cablevision's iPad app was unauthorized but it is not clear whether Cablevision has received the kinds of legal threats that TWC has.

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