FilmOn sues PBS station in pre-emptive lawsuit

Internet TV streaming service FilmOn is suing Chicago-based WWCI, licensee of PBS station WTTW which on November 12th accused the operation of copyright infringement.

FilmOn contends that Congress and the courts have always protected an individual’s right to privately perform copyrighted audiovisual works, noting that this right has been challenged countless times by copyright holders seeking to curtail fair use and exploit additional profits. FilmOn says the technology at issue enables only private performance and does not infringe any copyright.

WWCI has threatened suit on the basis that FilmOn is “publicly performing” WTTW’s copyrighted television content in violation of the 1976 Copyright Act. FilmOn argues that it does not publicly perform copyrighted work any more than the manufacturers of digital antennas, televisions or set-top television boxes publicly perform such works. “Indeed, FilmOn’s technology was specifically designed to comply with the law by rendering only private performance. FilmOn’s service implements legal technology and methods to enable individual users greater access to free-to-air content,” it says.

In its suit, to be heard in an Illinois District court, FilmOn says that declaratory judgement is necessary to clear the air of this controversy and protect the right of private performance.

FilmOn founder Alki David holds no punches in his views on the validity of WWCI’s claim. Speaking exclusively to advanced-television.com, David said: “Shame on these people. They were entrusted with the public’s spectrum and call themselves a not for profit organisation. Pathetic. But like the Networks they hide behind the copyright story to protect their fraudulent little Nielsen scam.”

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