Copyright fight: networks vs. Dish’s non-commercial distribution

Officials of Dish Network believe viewers of the shows it offers have television rights that should not be dictated by the nation’s major broadcasting networks. The networks have gone to court claiming that Dish Network is guilty of copyright infringement, because it lets viewers watch network programs without commercials.

CBS Corp., NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast Corp., and Fox Broadcasting Co., owned by News Corp., called Dish Network a “bootlegger” that is trying to upset the ecosystem of primetime television programming by eliminating commercial content.

The network’s intellectual property lawsuits were filed separately against Dish. In late May, Dish lodged its own court complaint against the suing networks and ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co. The distributor wants a federal court to declare that its PrimeTime Anytime service does not infringe on network copyrights.

Fox attorneys said Dish began to offer the PrimeTime Anytime service three months ago. Dish’s new Hopper set-top converter box allegedly contains a hard drive. The Dish-controlled device monitors and records the prime time programming of the four major television networks.

Dish subscribers reportedly can use a feature called Auto Hop to see recorded network shows, minus all commercials.

The video-on-demand service has the major television networks fuming. Fox’s suit claims Dish breached its contract. NBC and CBS want damages and a court order forcing Dish Network to stop its distribution of television programs.

Courts will have to decide — or intellectual property attorneys will have to settle — whether Dish Network has the right to edit out commercials from network programs before it makes make them available to viewers.

If Dish Network is allowed to continue to offer PrimeTime Anytime without commercial interruption, the networks could be forced to lower rates for advertising. Courts will have to consider whether commercials are optional or integral parts of video-on-demand television programs.

A decision must also be made over whether the nation’s biggest television networks can stipulate how their programs are packaged for the viewing public.

Source: Bloomberg, “Sony, Apple, ‘Linsanity,’ RGIII, WWE: Intellectual Property,” Victoria Slind-Flor, May 29, 2012