Less than two weeks after DISH Network announced their clever and automated, albeit limited, commercial skip functionality Fox, NBC, and CBS have filed suit for copyright infringement and breach of contract:
[Fox] were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, DISH Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem. Their wrongheaded decision requires us to take swift action in order to aggressively defend the future of free, over-the-air television.
NBC has filed suit against this unlawful service in order to keep over-the-air broadcast television a strong competitor. Advertising generates the revenue that makes it possible for local broadcast stations and national broadcast networks to pay for the creation of the news, sports and entertainment programming that are the hallmark of American broadcasting. Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale basis for its own economic and commercial advantage.
This service takes existing network content and modifies it in a manner that is unauthorized and illegal. [CBS] believe this is a clear violation of copyright law and we intend to stop it.
Of course, no one should be surprised by this highly likely development. What remains unknown is if DISH will be forced to remove the feature from their flagship whole-home Hopper DVR or if they might work out some sort of On Demand-esque licensing.
Coincidentally, DISH & Roku just partnered… and Roku’s CEO Anthony Wood happened to found ReplayTV — who was similarly attacked by the broadcasters about a decade ago for implementing commercial skip. So perhaps he had some advice for DISH CEO Joe Clayton as they prepared their own preemptive legal strike today against ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC:
DISH today filed suit against ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in federal court for a declaratory judgment on questions that have arisen related to the pay-TV provider’s May 10 introduction of a user-enabled commercial skipping technology called AutoHop. DISH’s monthly subscriber fees include significant “retransmission fees” that DISH pays to the major networks. Although the broadcasters have made much of their content available for free using sites such as Hulu, they have continued to demand substantial increases in their retransmission fees. In addition to increasing media reports of planned legal action against DISH, three of the networks — CBS, Fox and NBC — have rejected ads for DISH’s Hopper Whole-Home DVR, the device that features the AutoHop function.