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Dish Network is still arguing the merits of its controversial ‘Dish Hopper’ DVR ad-skipping technology before a US appeals court. In particular, network broadcaster Fox is arguing that the technology infringes Fox’s broadcasting copyrights. Last year Fox was denied a preliminary injunction which would have forced Dish Network to disable its ‘Hopper’ service.
Three weeks ago, again in a highly controversial decision, Dish’s ‘Hopper’ technology was denied a ‘best of CES’ award by CBS-owned CNET magazine. There are separate law suits trundling through the courts backed by the CBS and ABC networks.
However, the court has now heard opinions from three esteemed individuals, including the CES, which seems to put a cap on any prospects for Fox’s eventual success. In essence the experts argued that the case currently before the court is arguing much the same points of law that were first aired back in 1984 when the court ruled in favour of Sony when it introduced its Betamax VCR system, which went all the way to the US Supreme Court.
The experts said that if this current case found in favour of Fox it would, in effect, reverse the decision of the Supreme Court and have the result that all time-shifting of content was illegal.
CES’ CEO Gary Shapiro, in particular, said: “Almost 30 years ago, the US Supreme Court ruled in Sony that personal, private non-commercial use of video programming is legal, and products that have significant legal uses may not be blocked by copyright owners. Today, broadcasters seek to reverse this Supreme Court decision and kill what is essentially a new generation of VCR. The Hopper is more convenient to use and has more storage capacity, but has the same essential function – it allows viewers to time-shift and watch television programming at their convenience. The simple fact is, making television easier to watch is not against the law. It is simply pro-innovation and pro-consumer.”
“With this lawsuit, the Hopper joins the Betamax in the long list of products that entrenched industries have insisted would harm them. In reality, the VCR, the DVR, the SlingBox and other innovative consumer technology products have expanded the market for content and presented ninja content innovators with new business opportunities.”
“The Hopper is an exciting new product that will make television viewing easier and likely encourage viewers to watch more TV. The editors at respected technology website CNET even named the most recent iteration of the Hopper ‘Best of CES’ (although CNET’s parent company, broadcaster CBS, forced them to lie about and rescind the award). Broadcasters should try innovating rather than litigating, and proactively offer their viewers the best and most up-to-date television experience that includes enabling consumers to view their favorite programs when, where and how they want.”