Advanced Television

“Viewers can skip ads” says Autohop judge

November 8, 2012

By Chris Forrester

EchoStar and Dish Network have celebrated a legal victory after Judge Dolly Gee at a US District Court in California rejected Fox Broadcasting’s efforts to see Dish Network’s ‘Autohop’ ad-skipping technology banned. Fox had applied for an injunction.

Fox says the Court’s decision did find that Autohop breached the broadcaster’s copyright, and they would be mounting an appeal. “Dish is marketing and benefiting from an unauthorised VoD service that illegally copies Fox’s valuable programming,” Fox said.

The Autohop technology is designed to allow users to easily record the primetime shows on up to each of the four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) and save them for up to eight days. The AutoHop feature allows users to play back certain PrimeTime Anytime recordings commercial-free, starting the day after broadcast.

A Dish Network statement said this was a decision for common sense and customer choice.

According to Dish, the judge’s ruling found that:

  • Contrary to Fox’s assertion, Dish customers using PrimeTime Anytime cannot be liable for copyright infringement;
  • Copies made using the Hopper’s PrimeTime Anytime feature do not infringe on Fox’s exclusive reproduction rights under federal copyright laws;
  • Neither the AutoHop commercial-skipping feature nor the PrimeTime Anytime feature constitutes unauthorised distribution under federal copyright laws;
  • AutoHop does not violate the Video-On-Demand provisions of the 2010 retransmission consent agreement (RTC) between Fox and DISH;

Copies of Fox programmes that Dish makes as part of its “quality assurance” of AutoHop’s functionality likely violate the RTC between Dish and Fox, and also likely violate Fox’s exclusive reproduction right under federal copyright laws.  But Fox has not established that is has suffered irreparable harm as a result of DISH making the quality assurance copies.

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