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9th Circuit OKs Dish Network's commercial-skipping technology

Fox Broadcasting can't block the Hopper

This round of the battle over commercials goes to the consumers. And Dish Network Corp.

Dish Network has developed a technology that delights TV addicts and drives broadcasters to despair. Its so-called Hopper automatically skips over commercials on programs that users have recorded on the digital video recorder (DVR).

After the Hopper debuted in May 2012, broadcasters wasted no time in filing a lawsuit, claiming that the technology violated copyright laws. Spearheading the movement was Fox Broadcasting, which sought to block the “Auto-Hop” feature of Hopper. On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit upheld a lower court's ruling rejecting Fox's request.

The 9th Circuit wrote that consumers should be able to do whatever they want with the Fox programs they've recorded, as long as they aren't reselling its content, relying on the 1984 Supreme Court case that decided Betamax video recordings of TV programs were legal.

“Fox owns the copyrights to the television programs, not to the ads aired in the commercial breaks,” the court wrote.

Though at first blush, this ruling seems favorable to consumers, experts told The Washington Post that consumers could see cable prices increase, as broadcasters try to compensate for ad-skipping technology that could cost them funding.

Fox is, understandably, not particularly pleased with the 9th Circuit's decision. “This is not about consumer choice or advances in technology. It is about a company devising an unlicensed, unauthorized service that clearly infringes our copyrights and violates our contract,” Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said in a statement.

Read more about Dish Network's Hopper, and other TV lawsuits, on InsideCounsel:

Fox cannot block Dish Network’s commercial-skipping technology

Major TV broadcasters sue Dish Network over ad-skipping technology

Broadcasters denied preliminary injunction against Internet TV company

Cablevision attacks practice of bundling TV channels in lawsuit against Viacom

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