ICraveTV.com shuts down after settlements

WASHINGTON –ICraveTV.com, which allowed Web surfers to watch TV stations via the Internet, has reached settlements in the U.S. and Canada that have effectively put it out of business.

Under the agreements, ICraveTV has agreed to “permanently” shut down the Web site that allowed users to watch 17 TV stations, including four in Buffalo, N.Y. ICraveTV was operated by the TVRadio Now Corp., based in Toronto.

A coalition of movie studios, broadcasters and sports leagues filed suit against ICraveTV.com in a Pennsylvania federal court claiming copyright infringement. The content owners fear that the Internet may wreak havoc on their ability to exploit their copyrights.

What’s at stake

Movie studios and sports leagues haul in billions of dollars in revenue by selling copyrighted material on a market-by-market basis. If a viewer in, say, Los Angeles, can suddenly watch “Friends” on the Internet, its value to the local broadcast outlet plummets. And the inability to offer exclusive deals for syndicated material would rock the foundations of the television programming business.

The settlement does leave open the possibility that ICraveTV.com will be able to negotiate with content companies for the right to retransmit material over the Internet. “With the litigation behind us, we can now focus our energies on negotiating licenses with rights holders for the streaming of various forms of video on the ICrave site,” said ICrave president and CEO Bill Craig.

Deals unlikely

But sources say it is unlikely that Craig will be able to secure much of the TV programming he had previously offered over the Internet through video streaming. “We’ve succeeded in pulling the plug on ICraveTV,” said Michael McCabe, president and CEO of the Canadian Assn. of Broadcasters.

Motion Picture Assn. of America prexy Jack Valenti also declared victory Monday. “The resolution of this matter will serve as a deterrent to anyone who seeks to take that which they do not own,” he said.

The settlement comes after a federal judge ordered the site shuttered for a least another three months.

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