FilmOn Loses a Bid for License to Broadcast Signals

FilmOn, which has been engaged in a long battle with stations over the ability to stream over-the-air signals, said that it was disappointed with a ruling from a district court in Washington that it was not entitled to a compulsory license to retransmit the broadcasts.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer, in a ruling issued on Thursday, dismissed FilmOn X’s claim that they were entitled to such a license. She also found that FilmOn X was liable for infringing the named plaintiff Fox Television Stations’ exclusive right of public performance.

She did deny summary judgment of copyright infringement claims against FilmOn.TV Networks, Inc., FilmOn.TV, Inc., FilmOn.com and founder Alkiviades David.

Her decision diverges from one in July, in which U.S. District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles said that federal copyright code does not distinguish between traditional cable TV providers and online services like FilmOn with respect to rights to a compulsory retransmission license. Fox is appealing that decision.

Collyer’s decision is sealed until the parties file the requests for public versions of her opinion.

A spokesman for Fox said they were pleased with the ruling.

“FilmOn.TV is disappointed with the D.C. court’s ruling finding its partner FilmOn X is not entitled to a compulsory copyright license,” a company spokesman said. “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 public’s right to employ technology to access free-to-air television was at the center of the California court’s ruling issued earlier this year,” he added. “In that case, Judge Wu applied the plain language of the copyright act, finding that FilmOn X may obtain a compulsory license. In light of the conflicting rulings, this may be an issue that is ultimately resolved by the Supreme Court.”

The FCC is weighing whether over-the-top streaming services should be given the same rights to compulsory licenses as pay-TV operators.

Deadline first reported on the decision.

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