Ivi TV Hits a Roadblock
The events that everyone in the online video world saw coming started yesterday as the Southern District Court of New York issued an injunction against Ivi TV. Ivi is a Seattle, Washington-based network that collects over-the-air broadcast channels from around the country and streams them online for a $4.99 monthly fee.
That business model sounds too good to be true-or legal-and for the moment it's been halted. U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald granted a motion for a preliminary injunction as requested by the broadcasters filing suit, which included ABC, NBC, and Fisher Broadcasting. The motion prevents Ivi from retransmitting the broadcasters' programs.
Ivi's defense of its business model has always been that it's a cable system, and that it pays $100 for a qualifying license. Buchwald ruled that Ivi isn't a cable system and that the compulsory license it has can't be used for retransmitting broadcast signals across the country.
Ivi has promised to appeal the decision, saying that it has met with the FCC repeatedly and has received assurances that it's in full compliance.
"Judge Buchwald makes the legal mistake of misinterpreting the copyright law to instead make communications policy. Communications policy is the province of the FCC and, by basing a judicial copyright decision on communications regulations to be administered by the FCC, the judge is overstepping her constitutional authority," says Ivi TV's CEO Todd Weaver.
Ivi has suspended invoicing for customers so that they won't cancel their subscriptions.
Noting how disruptive the ruling would be to the broadcast industry, the judge put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.
While the streaming cable company's fate rests in the courts, it continues to add new stations to its roster.
Does the Copyright Act support online re-transmission of broadcast material? Much is riding on the answer.