ivi streaming ‘illegal’

A US District judge has ruled that Internet TV service ivi is breaking the law by offering live streams of network and cable television. ivi, which offers online broadcasts of 55 stations in the Los Angeles, Chicago and New York area for under $5 a month, was ordered to cease operations immediately as a result of a preliminary injunction issued by Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York.

Judge Buchwald’s ruling noted that “Congress legislated with an understanding that the cable systems it was granting a compulsory license to would also be subject to the regulations of the FCC, and that “no company or technology which refuses to abide by the rules of the FCC has ever been deemed a cable system for purposes of the Copyright Act. Significantly, companies such as AT&T U-Verse, which claim to operate outside of the jurisdiction of the Communications Act, still comply with these rules, most significantly by obtaining retransmission consent.”

ivi described Buchwald’s decision as incorrect and said it would suspend billing for ivi Air and ivi Pro customers so that subscribers didn’t have to close their accounts. ivi contends that the service is completely legal because of a licence that Congress had created for the cable industry. This allows cable operators to use broadcast signals if they pay royalties, but also allows broadcasters the right to ask for more revenue in accordance with FCC regulations. ivi argues it is both a cable system and an Internet service, and as such, is allowed to stream content, but isn’t forced to follow FCC rules.

ivi TV Chief Executive Todd Weaver denounced the ruling, saying that the judge was overstepping her constitutional power. “Judge Buchwald’s opinion is premised on her statement that ivi is ‘not complying with the rules and regulations of the FCC’. This conclusion is simply false, as ivi has met with the all the commisioner’s offices of the FCC repeatedly and has received assurances that we are in full and complete compliance. Judge Buchwald makes the legal mistake of misinterpreting the copyright law to instead make communications policy. Communications policy is the province of the FCC and, by basing a judicial copyright decision on communications regulations to be administered by the FCC, the judge is overstepping her constitutional authority,” he said in a statement.

ivi confirmed it would be appealing the decision in the second circuit, but in the interim would shut down most of its broadcast channel offerings. “As soon as we can restore the channels we will resume the subscriptions from that point forward. We will continue to carry a number of channels and will be adding channels from broadcasters and content providers as we grow,” it said.

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