Fox Loses First Bid to Block Dish's AutoHop Ad-Skipper

But Says Sealed Ruling Found Dish Violated Copyright

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News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting unit lost its bid to block Dish Network Corp.'s ad-free prime-time TV service and its so-called AutoHop features before a copyright-infringement lawsuit has been resolved.

The disruptive Hopper equipment from Dish Network
The disruptive Hopper equipment from Dish Network

Dish and Fox issued separate statements yesterday saying that U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles had ruled on Fox's request for a preliminary injunction. The ruling was filed under seal and couldn't be independently confirmed.

"We are gratified the court found the copies Dish makes for its AutoHop service constitute copyright infringement and breach the parties' contract," Fox said in an e-mailed statement. "We are disappointed the court erred in finding that Fox's damages were not suitable for a preliminary injunction."

Fox Broadcasting, Comcast's NBC Universal and CBS Corp. separately sued Dish, the No. 2 U.S. satellite-television provider, claiming the service will destroy the "advertising supported ecosystem" that provides free, over-the-air prime-time TV. Dish sued the networks in New York, seeking a court ruling that it isn't infringing copyrights.

Richard Stone, a lawyer for Fox, said at a Sept. 21 hearing that other distributors, including DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite-television provider, will be forced to follow suit if Dish's ad-free primetime television service isn't blocked.

Yesterday's ruling "is a victory for common sense and customer choice," R. Stanton Dodge, general counsel for Dish Network, said in an e-mailed statement. "The ruling underscores the U.S. Supreme Court's 'Betamax' decision, with the court confirming a consumer's right to enjoy television as they want, when they want."

Fox said it intends to appeal the judge's denial of their request for a preliminary injunction.

Dish introduced its Hopper digital video recorder in March. It can record all the major networks' prime-time shows and store them for eight days after their initial broadcast. AutoHop, introduced in May, allows viewers, with the touch of a button, to skip all the commercials on recorded shows automatically, without having to fast-forward through them.

~Bloomberg News~

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