Internet company sues for right to retransmit TV programming


Start-up ivi TV launched last week, offering to deliver 27 broadcast TV channels via broadband Internet to subscribers for $4.99 per month. The company was immediately deluged with cease and desist letters from content providers, but it has fired back by suing them in federal court.

Seattle-based ivi Inc. filed the lawsuit in the US District Court there seeking a declaratory judgment that its retransmission of broadcast TV signals does not infringe the copyrights owned by the content owners. The defendants named are Fisher Communications, NBC, ABC, CBS, CW, Disney, Fox, Major League Baseball, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., WGBH Educational Foundation and, apparently because each had sent a cease and desist letter to ivi – so look for more defendants to be added as more content owners demand an end to the unauthorized retransmission.

ivi’s channel lineup includes all of the major network O&Os/affiliates in New York City and Seattle, along with a number of DTV multicast channels, such as Universal Sports, Qubo, V-me, Retro and This.

“The secondary transmission by ivi of the primary transmission of content originating with the Defendants is permissible under the statutory licensing provisions of the Copyright Act,” the lawsuit claims. It seeks a declaration that “ivi has not infringed any copyrights owned by any of the defendants” and for the defendant content owners to be ordered to pay its court costs and legal fees.

In a press release sent to RBR-TVBR, ivi said it was challenging “big media to innovate rather than litigate.” It claimed the lawsuit it filed was a “preemptive move to discourage needless litigation from big media.”

“ivi, Inc., remains steadfastly on the side of the consumer, refusing to allow big media to limit consumers’ choice or its technology. Instead, ivi has responded to the C&D letters with both written clarification explaining how its technology works within the parameters of existing law, and offers to meet with broadcasters to begin a constructive dialogue about implementing ivi’s proprietary technology. The ivi technology is a clear reflection of consumer demand and evolutionary forces in the technology marketplace,” the company said.

“ivi is not another Pirate Bay or Napster trying to gain from others’ works. Rather, ivi wishes to work with content owners in helping them to realize new revenue streams and reach more viewers from around the globe,” said Todd Weaver, founder and CEO.  “The ivi team has spent more than three years developing a compelling technological solution that no other company has come close to matching.  ivi enables content owners to protect and monetize their assets while simultaneously giving consumers what they want.  We recognize that it is disruptive to existing cable offerings and remain confident that we have adopted a model that is allowed under all applicable laws. We remain receptive to formal partnerships with broadcast networks and are discussing carriage rights for premium cable, international, and a la carte channels.”

The start-up company is also seeking partnerships with cable MSOs, even as it pushes forward with its cord-cutting alternative.
“It’s not too late for cable companies to recognize that their existing business models are quickly becoming obsolete while their customers demand more options. By partnering with ivi, we provide channels secure distribution, while providing consumers affordability and choice.  A cable channel like HBO, for example, could easily have a channel on ivi TV where they set the a la carte price at $7.99/mo, knowing their content is fully protected through our system, and that only ivi subscribers who have paid for the HBO subscription will be able to view the HBO channel. Everyone wins,” Weaver insisted. 

The lawsuit went into the hopper on Monday (9/20), so none of the defendants have yet filed a response. It’s a safe bet that several of them will seek injunctions to have their content removed from ivi.

RBR-TVBR observation: This has been tried before – and not successfully, we would add.