×

9th Circuit Rejects FilmOn Streaming of Broadcast Channels

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday rejected a bid by FilmOn to stream broadcast channels over the Internet under a provision of the Copyright Act of 1976.

FilmOn argues that it should be allowed to stream broadcast TV online under an exception to the Copyright Act intended for cable operators. The act granted cable companies the right to a “compulsory license” to distribute broadcast channels for a nominal fee.

But in its ruling, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that Congress did not envision that the exception would apply to internet-based distribution. Overturning a district court ruling, the panel reinstated a copyright claim against FilmOn filed by the major broadcasters, including Fox, NBC, CBS, and Disney.

The panel did acknowledge that the statute is ambiguous, and could be read to support either party, but deferred to the Copyright Office, which has consistently found that internet-based services do not qualify as “cable systems” under the law.

“The Copyright Office says they are not eligible. Because the Office’s views are persuasive, and because they are reasonable, we defer to them,” the court ruled.

FilmOn currently streams licensed content, and has repeatedly applied for a compulsory license to stream broadcast TV under the name FilmOn X. In a statement, attorney Ryan Baker said the company is “disappointed” in the ruling.

“FilmOn X continues to believe Congress intended that cable companies could utilize modern communications channels to deliver broadcast television to the American public,” he said.

FilmOn is arguing two similar cases at the D.C. Court of Appeals and the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“FilmOn X remains hopeful that those appellate courts will apply the statute as written and shun any attempt to impose extratextual limitations on the compulsory license,” Baker said.

The company has also sought to legitimize the service through the FCC, and will continue to pursue that avenue, he said.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    ‘Ad Astra’ Once Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending for the third week in a row with “Ad Astra.” Ads placed for the sci-fi film had an estimated media value of $6.47 million through [...]

  • Andrew MorseVariety's Entertainment & Techonology Summit,

    Listen: CNN Digital Chief Says Trump Doesn't Drive Traffic Success

    No subject might get as much attention across CNN’s digital properties as Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean the news network is dependent on him for web traffic. Andrew Morse, executive VP and general manager of the AT&T-owned company’s digital operations, pointed to recent coverage of natural disasters and international incidents as more potent audience [...]

  • Jonah Hill attends the press conference

    Instagram Debuts Jonah Hill’s ‘Un-filtered’ Bullying Docu-Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Facebook’s Instagram, as part of its anti-bullying initiatives, funded a new series directed by Jonah Hill featuring teens and young adults talking about their experiences with bullying. The four-episode “Un-filtered” goes live Wednesday (Sept. 18) on Instagram’s IGTV channel on its mobile app and the web. In the unscripted series, Hill interviews people aged 13-25 [...]

  • Plex

    Plex Signs Up Lionsgate for Upcoming Ad-Supported Video Service

    Media center app maker Plex has struck a deal with Lionsgate to add some of the studio’s movies and TV shows to its upcoming ad-supported video service. The news comes just weeks after Plex announced a similar deal with Warner Bros. “Lionsgate is one of the biggest names in the business and we know our [...]

  • Comcast Xfinity Flex

    Comcast Drops $5 Monthly Fee for Xfinity Flex Video-Streaming Set-Top for Broadband Customers

    Comcast will hand out one free set-top box for broadband subscribers to access Xfinity Flex, its video-streaming product for internet-only customers, as it looks to punch up the value of its high-speed internet business. Brian Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and CEO, announced the new strategy at Goldman Sachs’ Communacopia conference Wednesday in New York. “One of [...]

  • Facebook Portal TV

    Facebook Announces $149 Portal TV Device, 2 New Portal Smart Displays

    Facebook wants you to put a camera into your living room: The company officially unveiled its Portal TV device Wednesday that brings video chatting, augmented reality (AR) and Facebook Watch to any TV set. In addition, the company also unveiled two new Portal smart display devices that are aggressively priced to grow the company’s home [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content