Alki David, FilmOn CEO, has launched Barrydriller.com, an online video service in competition with Aereo, Barry Diller’s new service that streams broadcast TV networks’ signal (received over small, remote antennas) over the web to paying subscribers. David says Barrydriller.com is “homage to a great guy and at the same time, it’s drilling him a bit.”
Diller tells WSJ: “I had hoped that if they steal my name they’d do it for something more provocative” – the site itself isn’t a joke. It is streaming live television, including the major network affiliates in New York.
FilmOn launched a very similar service in 2010 – only to run smack into legal action from the major TV networks, just as Aereo did earlier this year. Litigation against Aereo is still pending although a federal judge last month denied broadcasters’ request for a preliminary injunction against the service.
In the case of FilmOn, a judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the service in 2010 and FilmOn recently settled with the networks, agreeing to pay $1.6 million.
With Barrydriller.com, David claims to be following in the footsteps of Aereo, which is using a different technological approach and appears to be on sounder legal ground.
David also says he is willing to pay the networks for their content, unlike Aereo, although he hasn’t paid them yet. The site is currently charging $5.95 a month to watch several local New York channels, or $59.95 a year. David claims Barrydriller.com has more than 28,000 paying subscribers.
A lawsuit Fox has filed in U.S. District Court in LA on Friday claims that Barrydriller.com violates its copyrights and trademarks by streaming its KTTV-DT LA signal without permission. The suit seeks injunctive relief and unspecified damages.
“No amount of technological gimmickry by Defendants changes the fundamental principle of copyright law that those who wish to retransmit Plaintiffs’ broadcasts may do so only with Plaintiffs’ authority,” the complaint argues.
“We don’t see him as a threat, we don’t even see him as a real business,” Louis Briskman, general counsel at CBS, told WSJ. “If we find that he is using our content in an unauthorized way we will explore our legal options.”
Aereo isn’t too pleased, either: “We have no knowledge of Mr. David’s business arrangements or his purported ‘technology,’” an Aereo spokeswoman told the paper. “Neither Mr. David nor Filmon have any association with Aereo. It is unfortunate that they appear determined to try to trade on Aereo and its board members’ successes and reputation.”
RBR-TVBR observation: After District Court judge Alison J. Nathan denied (7/11) a request for a preliminary injunction by the major broadcasters that would have shut down Aereo, it has emboldened other companies to offer similar services. Alki David already had to pay the networks $1.6 million after his service was shut down. Now, with the Aereo ruling, his attorneys are obviously telling him to go right ahead with BarryDriller.com. This won’t be the first, for sure.