Judge's Ruling Shows Rationale Against a License for FilmOn
FilmOn isn't entitled to a compulsory license to stream broadcast content, one court has ruled, in a move that certainly surprised no one.
Last month, a U.S. District Court judge ruled against FilmOn's claim to a compulsory license. Last week, the judge's decision was unsealed, showing her reasoning. Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote that while the Supreme Court noted an "overwhelming likeness" between cable operators and online streamer Aereo, that doesn't mean that an online system that offers copyrighted material like a cable system does must automatically be seen as a cable system.
FilmOn had some hopes that it would prevail, thanks to a July decision from a Los Angeles District Court judge which suggested that major broadcast networks might be required to license their content to the service. However, while viewers don't see a distinction between cable-, satellite, or IP-based premium video services, the courts clearly do.
“We’re gratified that the court confirmed that rogue services like FilmOn who retransmit copyrighted material over the internet cannot find a loophole in statutes that were clearly designed to exclusively address local cable television services,” said a Fox spokesperson quoted in Variety.
FilmOn released a statement which read in part, "FilmOn.TV is disappointed with the D.C. court's ruling finding its partner FilmOn X is not entitled to a compulsory copyright license. The real losers are the citizens, for whom free access to the airways that belong to them is once again restrained by a judge's incorrect statutory interpretation favoring big business over technological advancement." The company believes this case should go to the Supreme Court.
Perhaps the next streamer to face legal challenges will be Telletopia, which announced last month that it plans to gain a compulsory license by forming as a nonprofit corporation.
A loophole in copyright law says that nonprofits can retransmit broadcast content without a license, so this startup is a nonprofit.
Noting how disruptive the ruling would be to the broadcast industry, the judge put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.