Ruling gives hope to FilmOn, other streaming TV services

In a blow to broadcast TV networks, a judge said Thursday that Internet TV streaming service FilmOn X should be treated like a cable service. If the decision is upheld, it could lead to big changes in the entertainment industry.

There’s been an injunction against Beverly Hills-based FilmOn for a couple of years, after lawsuits by Fox and other broadcasters that accused the company of infringing on their copyrights when it transmitted their content without paying for the rights to do so. FilmOn had argued that each transmission is a private performance brought by a single antenna to an individual. It’s the same argument that higher-profile competitor Aereo — which was found in violation of the Copyright Act by the Supreme Court last year — had made about its service.

U.S. District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles ruled Thursday that FilmOn is entitled to a compulsory license to retransmit broadcasters’ content. But acknowledging that his decision carries “significant commercial importance,” Wu immediately sent the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Reuters. (For more specifics on Wu’s ruling, see this article from the Hollywood Reporter.)

If over-the-top services such as FilmOn are granted the same rights as cable companies and they are allowed to transmit broadcast networks’ content provided they meet certain requirements, it could mean more cord-cutting. Some consumers have held back from dumping cable because they have had no other way to access their local TV networks’ content. As for the broadcasters, the Hollywood Reporter mentioned a couple of concerns from their perspective: They might have to charge lower licensing fees to services such as FilmOn, which would also be competing with their own over-the-top services.

 

Photo from Bay Area News Group archives

 

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