A federal judge has issued a key tentative decision in favor of Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) in its court battle with Fox, ruling that the pay-TV operator's "Primetime Anytime" DVR feature does not infringe on the programmer's copyright.
The AutoHop feature lets users of Dish's Hopper digital video recorder automatically record the entire primetime schedules of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, stripping out the commercials in the process.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said late last week that the feature constitutes fair use under the U.S. Supreme Court's 1984 Sony Betamax decision, which ruled that companies aren't liable for the recordings consumers choose to make.
"What they're saying is don't watch that stinky live stuff," Richard Stone, a lawyer for Fox, said at the hearing, which was covered by Bloomberg. "They created commercial-free video-on-demand because by law they can't provide commercial-free live TV."
Gee did, however, say that Fox may have a breach-of-contract claim, given that Primetime Anytime may violate provisions in Dish's deal with Fox that restrict it from offering video-on-demand content.
Gee also indicated that she was leaning toward Fox in its dispute over Dish's "Anywhere" feature, which lets users access recorded content remotely on IP devices via Sling technology.
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