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District Court Holds that Internet-Based Television Provider, FilmOn X is Entitled to a Compulsory License

By Anne Woodworth – Edited by Henry Thomas

Order: Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. FilmOn X, LLC , No. CV-12-6921 (C.D. Cal. July 16, 2015) hosted by loeb.com

A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled last week granted summary judgement for defendant FilmOn X, finding that the internet-based television provider is entitled to a compulsory license under § 111 of the Copyright Act to re-transmit broadcast television. The ruling is at odds with both a Second Circuit ruling and the position of the Copyright Office. Recognizing that the legal issues were close and of “significant commercial importance”, the judge authorized an immediate appeal to the Ninth Circuit and chose to maintain the existing preliminary injunction against FilmOn X.

FilmOn X gives subscribers access to remote antennae which pick up TV signals and broadcast the programs online where users can view in DVR format. Though the service is currently free, FilmOn maintains that this is because the service is offering free trials. Plaintiffs Fox Television Stations, Inc., NBCUniversal Media, LLC, and a host of other broadcasting companies moved for summary judgement, arguing that FilmOn X was not entitled to a compulsory license under § 111 of the Copyright Act. FilmOn X cross-moved that they were entitled to the license. § 111 allows cable broadcast companies to transmit copyrighted media, without negotiating with every copyright holder, as long as they follow specified rules and pay set royalties.

After outlining the multi-decade history of cable rebroadcasting, the district court found that internet streaming services such as FilmOn X fall within the § 111 definition of cable systems. A “cable system” is defined in the statute as “a facility . . . that in whole or in part receives signals transmitted or programs broadcast by one or more television broadcast stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, and...

Source: JOLT Digest

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