Dish Network Continues Busy Year in Court with Sonicview Lawsuit Victory

[Satellite News 06-05-12] Dish Network has received another favorable court ruling on issues dealing with satellite technology, the satellite pay-TV operator confirmed June 5.

   Dish Network’s most recent victory is against U.S.-based Free-To-Air (FTA) satellite receiver distributor Sonicview USA. A U.S. court found the company in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act after it was caught distributing satellite receivers to at least 17,500 households in the United States. The court ruled that, in distributing the receivers to Dish Network’s domestic U.S. market, Sonicview USA facilitated illegal viewing of the operator’s network telecasts.
   The court ordered Sonicview USA to destroy the remaining satellite receivers remaining in its possession. Dish Network also managed to claim $65 million in damages, but the award was only 20 percent of the $325 million amount in which it filed suit against Sonicview USA.
   Sonicview USA officials said they were surprised by the verdict, due to the fact that South Korean manufacturer Vicxon Corp. built the FTA receivers in question. The company said the Vicxon receivers were not fully equipped with software to break the signal.
   The Sonicview USA ruling was Dish Network’s second court victory of the past month. On May 31, a New York federal court judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt lawsuits that were filed against Dish Network by FOX and other TV broadcasters in California. FOX, CBS and NBC filed separate lawsuits against Dish May 24, claiming that the satellite broadcaster’s AutoHop service, which allows consumers to skip television ads, violates their copyright.
   Dish launched the Hopper HD DVR system in mid-March, giving viewers the ability to record up to six shows at once while playing back HD content in up to four rooms. The new Auto Hop capability for the Hopper allows customers to skip all commercials for most recorded primetime HD programs when viewed the day after airing. Dish Network viewers can watch a show with the Auto Hop option commercial-free starting at 1 a.m. EST, after a show has been recorded to the Hopper’s PrimeTime Anytime library. Auto Hop does not work on live broadcasts.
   Dish filed its own lawsuit in New York earlier in May, seeking a declaratory judgment that its AutoHop feature is legal.  The recent temporary restraining order could be lifted at a July 2 hearing, where U.S. District Court Judge Laura Swain will determine whether all of the court cases should be consolidated.
   “We’re pleased that the New York federal court has entered a temporary restraining order against Fox until the New York court decides whether the suits filed by FOX, CBS and NBC in California should be enjoined in favor of Dish’s suit in New York,” Dish Network Executive Vice President and General Counsel R. Stanton Dodge said in a May 31 statement. “Dish looks forward to presenting its case and prevailing on the merits.”
   Analysts have speculated that Dish Network may go so far as to enlist the help of competitor Cablevision in its DVR battle with the networks.
   A recent Bloomberg Businessweek report claimed the pay-TV satellite provider’s claims may be supported by a 2008 federal appeals court ruling that gave Cablevision the right to continue providing its customers with DVRs that record television shows without authorization from the networks. The ruling also enables remote home taping under the control of the customer without copyright violation.
   That ruling is key, according to the report, because Fox, along with CBS and Comcast-owned NBC, have accused Dish Network of copyright infringement. The judges on the appeals court in that case said that “playback didn’t constitute the transmission of a public performance of a work for which a license would be necessary, which removes one argument against ad-skipping playback – namely, that it creates an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work,” the report said.
   Dish Network has been on the losing side of similar arguments. In 2011, the company lost an extensive legal battle with TiVo for violating their patent rights. The ruling resulted in a significant financial loss for the company.
   The pay-TV operator has also been busy with hostile carriage negotiations between itself and AMC Networks, which resulted in Dish shifting AMC programming to an unfavorable position in its channel line-up.
   AMC recently ran commercials warning Dish subscribers that they’d be losing the programming by the end of June. Dish responded by moving AMC from a channel 130 spot in its high-profile entertainment neighborhood, to channel 9609, where infomercials and similar low-quality programming reside. AMC’s sister networks IFC and We TV also were moved to the 9000s. Dish also completely dropped AMC’s Sundance Channel on May 20.

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