Startup 'online cable' firm ivi TV sued by broadcasters

Online cable start up ivi TV, as predicted, is facing a knee-deep pile of lawsuits brought by broadcasters suing to make the company stop streaming TV programming over the Internet.

ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and a slew of other broadcasters say ivi TV is infringing on their copyrights for streaming the content without their authorization, claiming in their complaint filed in federal court in New York that ivi TV "launched their infringing Internet TV service to coincide with the start of the new fall television season."

But ivi TV CEO and founder Todd Weaver called the suit a "predictable move by big media" that's trying to "stifle innovation and technology," saying ivi TV, like other cable TV providers, pays licensing fees for the content.

"This is not about copyright, this is about competition," Weaver said. "In an initial knee-jerk reaction, broadcasters fought against cable companies, then joined them. Broadcasters then fought against satellite companies, then joined them. Today, it is our turn. ivi TV pays broadcasters and we increase their viewership. Broadcasters charge more in advertising in return due to the increase in viewers."

The service, which charges $4.99 a month after a 30-day free trial, gives users 24/7 access to live streamed TV content from channels in Seattle, New York and from several international broadcasters.

Weaver last week told FierceOnlineVideo that he filed his own complaint in federal court in Seattle Sept. 20, hoping to head off a wave of litigation, saying ivi expected to have "big media" try to shut it down as it had tried when cable and satellite began retransmitting broadcasters.

"It is unfortunate that big media chooses to fight innovation that is legal, pays them, and increases their revenue," he said in an email. "The smart move would be for broadcasters to take a cue from the music industry and innovate rather than litigate, as cable TV goes the way of the landline telephone business."

Joining the broadcaster's suit--WPIX Inc. v. Ivi Inc., 10-7415, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan)--as plaintiffs are Major League Baseball, Univision, Telemundo, Cox Media, Tribune Television, Fisher Broadcasting, WPIX, WGBH and Ivi's suit is Ivi Inc. v. Fisher Communications Inc., 10-1512, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington (Seattle).

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