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Major TV broadcasters sue Dish Network over ad-skipping technology

CBS, NBC and Fox say Dish’s Hopper DVR constitutes copyright infringement and breach of contract

In bad news for TV junkies, three television networks are suing Dish Network over its new Hopper digital video recorder (DVR), which allows customers to automatically skip television commercials. It looks like viewers may have to suffer through endless ads…or just change the channel during commercial breaks like always.

The Hopper—introduced on May 10—allows viewers to automatically record the primetime lineups of ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, and then watch those programs without commercials using Dish’s “Auto Hop” technology. The major broadcast networks quickly filed separate suits against Dish on charges including copyright infringement and breach of contract.

Fox’s complaint argues that the Hopper will “under[mine] legitimate consumer choice by undercutting authorized on-demand services,” and that it “will ultimately destroy  the advertising-supported ecosystem.”

In its own suit seeking declaratory relief, Dish says that the Hopper “is simply making it easier for viewers to refuse to be a captive audience and to exercise the well-accepted choice to skip a commercial.”

In 1984, the Supreme Court ruled that using Sony Corp.’s Betamax videotape to record TV shows did not constitute copyright infringement, saying that “even the unauthorized home time-shifting of respondents’ programs is legitimate fair use.”

But in their current suits, the broadcast networks attempt to differentiate between the Betamax case and the Hopper DVR, stating that Dish encourages TV viewers to infringe by skipping commercials and by storing TV shows for extended periods of time. They also claim that Dish is violating its contracts by allowing customers to watch TV programs on-demand and stream shows to computers.

Read more from The Hollywood Reporter.

Alanna Byrne

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