Public interest groups back ivi TV in court 'amicus' filing

Ivi TV, the online cable television operator that's being sued by a number of broadcasters who want it to stop live streaming their programming on the Internet, has gotten the backing of four public interest groups that have filed an amicus, or "friend of the court," brief in district court.

Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, and Open Technology Initiative (a project of the New America Foundation), filed the brief contending that online video distributors like ivi TV "are rapidly becoming one of the preeminent forces for competition in the marketplace, with the potential to lower consumer costs, spur technological innovation, and even promote the deployment of high-speed Internet access to communities it currently does not reach."

The groups also contend that since the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, both the FCC and Department of Justice have "recognized the emergence of a new class of video competitors called ‘online video distributors' " which both compete with traditional multichannel video distributors and play a "valuable role" in keeping prices down.

Ivi TV, the group contends, is an OVD and "a decision to grant Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction would deprive the public of the benefits envisioned by the DoJ and FCC."

Ivi currently streams content from broadcast stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle as well as an assortment of channels from international broadcast outlets. It's planning to add Philadelphia stations soon, it said. The service is available in the United States and costs $4.99 a month.

The brief also agrues that one of the points the broadcasters make in their request for an injunction, that "anyone with a computer, an Internet connection and a TV antenna can become a ‘cable system'" may actually be a reason to support ivi's continued operation.

"America's legal system favors competition, not monopoly, and the law does not grant special privileges to 1970s-era cable operators while discriminating against new entrants that offer a substantially similar service. ivi deserves to make its case, and the preliminary injunction should not be granted," the group argues. It went on to say that "Such an order would create a chilling effect that would slow the growth of Internet-based video distribution generally, and would be contrary to the public interest."

Ivi founder and CEO Todd Weaver said the involvement of the groups shows "the tremendous impact ivi and its case is having."

"To garner such early support from these important public interest groups is gratifying," he said. "We are appreciative for their support, not only for ivi TV, but for standing up for innovation and advancement in technology. Copyright conglomerates cannot be allowed to use bogus copyright claims as a mechanism to stifle competition and innovation in the marketplace. Like traditional cable and satellite TV before it, ivi TV's role in history is to revolutionize and be an agent of constructive change giving consumers more choice and control."

For more:
- see the Amicus brief
- see ivi TV's release

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