Dish Network told U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan this week that lawsuits over its service allowing viewers to watch ad-free TV should be heard in New York instead of LA, where CBS, Fox and NBC filed their complaints in May. The nets claim that its new AutoHop DVR feature, which allows viewers to automatically skip through commercials on recorded programs, infringes their copyrights and breaches Dish’s contracts with them. They say that the lost ad revenue will hinder their ability to pay for quality programming.
Judge Swain heard arguments on whether the lawsuit by Dish, filed in New York against the broadcast networks, should continue. In May, Swain ordered a temporary halt to the networks’ suits filed in California. She said she plans to rule on where the cases will be heard “within a week,” Bloomberg reports.
ABC didn’t sue in LA. It’s a defendant in Dish’s complaint in New York. Kevin Baine, a lawyer for ABC, told the judge the network doesn’t object to litigating in The City of Angels.
“This controversy belongs in New York,” Peter Bicks, a lawyer for Dish, told the judge 7/2. Dish said the cases should be in New York because its complaint was the first filed and its contracts with the networks require litigation to be heard there. “Dish is standing by the contract provisions,” he said.
Dish’s service “will ultimately destroy the advertiser- supported ecosystem that provides consumers with the choice to enjoy free over-the-air varied, high-quality prime time broadcast programs,” Fox said in its complaint. The networks seek an injunction to shut down the service.
The networks argued that the cases should be heard in LA because the violation of their copyrights and contracts makes them the “true” plaintiffs. They said Dish filed its complaint first because it knew it was about to be sued, and that its suit should be dismissed as an “improper anticipatory” filing. The Dish complaint was stamped 29 minutes before the first of three suits was filed in Los Angeles.
“Dish admitted it filed its declaratory judgment suit because it was operating under the threat of imminent litigation,” Richard Stone, a lawyer for Fox, told the judge.
Paul LiCalsi, a lawyer for CBS and NBC, said in court that Dish’s complaint “serves no useful purpose” and should be dismissed. “It misses crucial issues,” he said.
The networks are trying to stifle innovation, Dish said in its complaint. Auto Hop “complies with Dish’s bargained-for contractual rights,” it said. Dish added that it pays the networks “hundreds of millions of dollars per year in retransmission fees, collected from its subscriber base, for the right to rebroadcast these signals.”
It seeks a judicial ruling that it didn’t violate contracts or copyrights.
Fox said in its complaint that the Hopper is a “bootleg” VOD service and that its contracts for such services with Dish “include prohibiting fast-forwarding through commercials.”