Fox Urges Judge to Block Dish Anywhere

In another chapter of broadcasters efforts to stop unauthorized digital streams of their signals, Fox Broadcasting on Friday urged a federal judge to halt Dish Network’s offering of recently introduced new feature of TV on the go.

In an hourlong Los Angeles hearing before U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, Fox’s attorneys argued that the features violate retransmission agreements and infringe on their copyrights. Gee issued no decision on Fox’s motion for a preliminary injunction, but is expected to in the coming weeks.

In another case, Fox and the other networks also are challenging the legality of Aereo, a startup that offers broadcast streams to New York subscribers, but courts have so far refused to stop the service.

The Dish Network offering of Dish Anywhere, introduced in January, features Slingbox technology to allow subscribers to watch broadcast signals remotely, in what Dish calls “place-shifting.” Dish already drew the ire of Fox and other broadcast networks when it introduced its AutoHop feature last year, a technology which offers subscribers entire nights worth of primetime content with the commercials already skipped. In a decision last year, Gee refused to immediately stop that feature, and the networks are appealing her decision.

Dish defends its Anywhere feature by noting that Fox and other broadcasters have only recently challenged the technology, first introduced by Slingbox seven years ago. They claim that consumers, not Dish, that are the ones that are making the transmissions using Sling technology, a private use of copyrighted content that does not violate the Copyright Act’s prohibition against unauthorized public viewings.

“It is the exactly the same transmission technology” in the standalone Slingbox and in the Dish offering, noted Dish attorney Annette L. Hurst of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

But in questioning attorneys for Dish, Gee at one point focused on language in their Fox contract that restricts the use of its signal to “private home use,” and noted that subscriber agreements contain similar language. Dish Anywhere offerings, however, give its subscribers the ability to watch shows on mobile devices. Orrick’s Peter Bicks, another attorney for Dish, described such language as a “shorthand phrase” that is akin to the legal ability of consumers to record a show and watch a VHS tape of it elsewhere. He also said that Fox has not objected when Dish introduced previous products, like a DVR, that also incorporated Sling technology.

Dish also suggests that Fox is contradicting itself. In a filing earlier this week, it noted that in appealing the most recent Aereo decisions, Fox’s attorneys at Jenner & Block wrote that “a subscriber who records a program in his den and watches it in his bedroom is not transmitting a program to the public’ he is transmitting it to himself. That is a private performance.”

But the Dish case is different from Aereo in that Dish has contract agreements with the broadcasters in place, while Aereo does not. Fox argues that the case is not even a “hard” one to decide: Its license agreement with Dish says that it cannot retransmit Fox’s live broadcast signal over the Internet, “and cannot allow anyone else to do so.”

“As a matter of law, a contract that expressly prohibits Internet retransmission cannot be ‘interpreted’ to allow Internet retransmission,” Fox’s attorneys, led by Jenner & Block’s Richard Stone, said in a brief on April 5. At the hearing, he said that the contract “expressly prohibited” such streaming.

Gee asked Stone whether Fox, if it is successful against Dish, will seek to stop technology like Slingbox. “No,” Stone said, arguing that there is a difference.

Fox argues that while Dish Anywhere uses Sling technology, it is not a standalone Slingbox, which “does not require an ongoing monthly subscription with Dish or any other service provider.” A reason the networks have yet to challenge Slingbox is that it has yet to gain widespread popularity, while the Anywhere service is available to 2 million homes.

“Sling technology is just Dish’s way of processing a video signal so it can be transmitted over the Internet,” Fox said in its brief. “It is not a magical new invention that allows service providers to deliver live broadcast television over the Internet without a license.”


Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa - The

    'Walking Dead' Star Christian Serratos in Talks for Selena Series at Netflix

    Christian Serratos is in negotiations to star in the upcoming Netflix series based on the life of Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla, Variety has confirmed with sources. The series was announced back in December and is described as a coming of age story following Selena (Serratos) as her dreams come true and all the heart-wrenching [...]

  • Songs for Screens Powered by Mac

    Songs for Screens: 'American Horror Story' Makes 'Suddenly Last Summer' Sizzle Again

    FX Network’s “American Horror Story” returns for a ninth season next month, and promos for the next chapter of the anticipated series, dubbed ‘AHS 1984,’ have been airing frequently across cable television throughout August. In the short yet effective spot (see below), the Motels’ melancholic, moody “Suddenly Last Summer” plays as aerial footage of an [...]

  • Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star

    Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star in Multi-Camera Comedy Series for Netflix

    Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps are headed to Netflix. The streamer has ordered a multi-camera comedy series starring the two comedians titled “The Upshaws.” The series centers on a working-class Africian American family in Indiana struggling to make it work and make it right without the blueprints to do it. Sykes will executive produce and [...]

  • Vader Streams Shuts Down

    Vader Streams Shut Down by Hollywood Studios

    A coalition of Hollywood studios and streaming companies announced on Tuesday that they have shut down Vader Streams, which was once a popular source of pirated TV content. The service went offline in early May under mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation that the operator had either absconded or been forced out of business. The Alliance [...]

  • Søren-Sveistrup

    Netflix Teams With 'The Killing' Creator for Crime Thriller 'The Chestnut Man'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Further expanding its Scandinavian footprint, Netflix has announced its second Danish original series, “The Chestnut Man,” a police thriller based on “The Killing” creator Søren Sveistrup’s popular novel. The streaming giant will team with Sveistrup’s SAM Productions, minority owned by Studiocanal, part of Vivendi Canal Plus Group, to deliver this noir-influenced literary [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    ICM Blasts Writers Guild Over Withdrawal of State Lawsuit

    ICM Partners has slammed the leaders of the Writers Guild of America over its decision to withdraw from its state court lawsuit in favor of refiling the action in federal court. The agency, which was sued in April by the guild and eight WGA members over charging allegedly illegal packaging fees, issued a statement Tuesday [...]

  • succession

    'Succession' Renewed for Season 3 at HBO

    “Succession” has scored an early Season 3 renewal at HBO. The news comes as the critically-acclaimed drama series is just two episodes into its second season. Season 1 of the series was recently nominated for five Emmy Awards, including for best drama series. “We are elated that ‘Succession’ and its exploration of wealth, power and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content