Federal judge rules against ivi TV, effectively shuts down 'online cable operator'

A federal judge in New York has granted a preliminary injunction against ivi TV, the online service sued by a group of broadcasters and content providers for streaming television broadcast signals from stations in New York, L.A., Seattle and Chicago, saying it was unlikely the company fit the definition of a cable company as described in Section 111 of the Copyright Act. The injunction effectively shuts ivi TV down, blocking it from streaming broadcasts without consent, and ordering it to refrain from "infringing by any means... any of the plaintiffs' exclusive rights" by "streaming over mobile telephone systems and/or the Internet of any of the broadcast television programming in which any plaintiff owns a copyright."

Ivi CEO Todd Weaver Tuesday afternoon said the Seattle-based company planned to appeal the injunction, and to "explore Congressional and Administrative solutions."

"Regarding today's development, 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," said Weaver. "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."

Ivi told subscribers it was shutting down "most of our broadcast channel offerings," and said it was suspending invoicing for ivi Air and ivi Pro. As of Tuesday afternoon, a single channel was offered, although ivi said it would work to add more.

Ivi was sued by an alphabet soup of broadcasters and content producers who claimed the company infringed on their copyrights by streaming broadcast signals without their content. Ivi has maintained that as an online cable company that paid fees to the Copyright Office it was entitled to retransmit the content.

The company changes $4.99 per month to subscribers in the United States who've downloaded the ivi TV Player.

Public Knowledge, a watchdog group that had filed an amicus brief on behalf of ivi TV, said it was disappointed in District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald's ruling.

"We are disappointed that Judge Buchwald chose to shut down ivi at all, much less so early in the legal process. Her decision showed clearly the ambiguities in current law and regulation which online video providers like ivi face," said John Bergmayer, staff attorney for Public Knowledge. "If competition to traditional cable service is to develop in the online distribution sector, then the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Copyright Office are going to have to move quickly to update their rules to conform to the realities of new technology and consumer choice."

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