The National Association of Broadcasters is backing broadcasters who’ve demanded that Internet video start-up ivi TV remove their signals from its service. In response, ivi says it wants to “enlighten” NAB.
“It is blatantly illegal to steal broadcasters’ copyrighted works and signals. We strongly support broadcasters and their program suppliers in their efforts to combat copyright abuse and signal piracy,” said a statement from NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton.
NAB doesn’t think much of ivi’s claim that its service complies with US Copyright Law. It noted that in 2000, an Internet distribution service known as iCraveTV.com was enjoined by a federal court for copyright infringement following legal action taken by broadcasters, Hollywood studios and professional sports leagues.
“We understand the NAB’s point of view and welcome this opportunity to enlighten them,” said a response from ivi TV CEO Todd Weaver. “ivi TV filed a lawsuit, because we were wrongly accused of copyright infringement, an accusation disruptive to our business. We needed resolution of these issues right away. We believe the copyright claims are unsubstantiated and are really just camouflage for trying to stifle innovation and competition,” he said.
“Furthermore, we pay broadcasters in accordance with the law, just like cable. This is not about copyright, this is about competition. Congress created the compulsory licensing scheme for cable systems, to distribute broadcast content to the masses. We intend to increase viewer numbers and would welcome opportunities to work with the Broadcasters,” Weaver insisted.
When RBR-TVBR asked how ivi TV will pay broadcasters, since it has no retransmission consent agreements in place, the company responded with copies of the cable system statutory license forms it intends to file with the US Copyright Office for paying royalty fees for secondary transmissions of copyright programming.
Interestingly, ivi TV is claiming that it has a legal right to do what broadcast TV stations themselves cannot do, which is stream their network/syndicated programming on the Internet to viewers outside their DMA. All of the stations currently offered by ivi TV are captured over the air in Seattle, where ivi TV is based, and New York City.
ivi TV disputes NAB’s claim that the copyright issue in its lawsuit seeking a declaratory ruling is already settled law. “The iCraveTV litigation referenced by the NAB is hardly precedential, as no decision on the merits was ever reached. Further, it involved different circumstances, including augmenting broadcast content with advertisements. ivi TV, on the other hand, is making the primary content available as is without any modification,” the company said in a statement.
As reported by RBR-TVBR 10 years ago, iCraveTV was a Toronto-based company which briefly distributed broadcasts online from mostly US TV stations. It shut down after some of the copyright holders obtained an injunction from a US Federal Court to block the unauthorized retransmissions.
RBR-TVBR observation: This war of words is not going to matter much. The courts will have the final say.