Viacom Sues Cablevision Over iPad App

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Cablevision Systems is now in Viacom's legal crosshairs, as the media giant filed a lawsuit accusing the cable operator of distributing its programming without permission through an iPad app -- one day after Viacom and Time Warner Cable officially suspended their litigation on the same issue.

"We have taken this action to protect our valuable content," Viacom said in a statement. "Over the last few months, we have had limited and unproductive discussions with Cablevision about licensing iPad rights. We remain open to productive discussions, but we cannot wait indefinitely while our networks are being distributed without permission."

Cablevision said in a statement: "Cablevision's very popular Optimum App for iPad, which has been available to our customers for nearly three months, falls within our existing cable television licensing agreements with programmers -- including Viacom. It is cable television service on the iPad, which functions as a television, and is delivered securely to our customers in the home on Cablevision's own proprietary network."

Cablevision's Optimum for iPad app

Viacom filed its suit Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the same court that was hearing the TWC-Viacom complaints. The Cablevision suit is docket number 11-CIV-4265.

In the lawsuit against Cablevision, Viacom is seeking $2 million per trademark violation plus additional unspecified monetary damages and to permanently enjoin the cable operator from distributing its programming via the iPad app "and any other new and/or emerging media technology platforms not expressly covered by the agreements."

According to the lawsuit, when the companies have previously expanded their programming-distribution deals, "Viacom received additional consideration from Cablevision for each additional right granted under the amendments."

In early April, Cablevision released the free iPad app, which lets subscribers watch up to 300 live TV channels and access more than 2,200 video-on-demand titles depending on their subscription level.

According to Viacom's suit, it sent Cablevision a cease-and-desist letter prior to the release of the Optimum for iPad App. "Cablevision subsequently informed Viacom that it declined to accede to Viacom's demand and, several days later, launched the iPad app," Viacom said.

At the time the MSO -- trying to show that the app was consistent with the terms of its existing carriage agreements -- was careful to point out that it supports closed-captioning and parental controls, and is available to any video customers whether or not they subscribe to Optimum Online.

Both Cablevision and TWC have asserted that their streaming-video iPad applications are covered under existing TV carriage deals because the apps limit viewing to a subscriber's home, over a home Wi-Fi network. The programming signals are delivered over their DOCSIS infrastructure, not the open Internet.

Viacom previously complained that the MSO had "seized distribution rights that Viacom has not granted."

In the past, Cablevision has dug in its heels in the face of legal challenges. In 2006, content owners sued Cablevision over the Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder, alleging copyright infringement. The MSO prevailed in that case in 2009, which was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, Time Warner Cable and Viacom's joint filing to enter into a "standstill agreement" freezing their lawsuits, was approved by the court. The agreement went into effect June 17.

The suits were originally filed in April, with Time Warner Cable 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 and Viacom alleging breach of contract and copyright violation. The Viacom networks remain unavailable through the TWCable TV app.

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