Broadcasters Sue Online Streaming Company Over Copyright

Several broadcast groups and major content owners filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against ivi.TV, a Seattle based online service that streams broadcast and cable content, claiming that the service violates copyright law.

The lawsuit, which was filed in a New York federal district court, also requests that the service be discontinued while the court reviews the action. The suit was filed by, among others, CBS, NBC, Disney, PBS, Cox, WPIX and the office of the MLB commissioner.

ivi.TV is trying to skirt current copyright laws by claiming that it is an online cable provider, but not a cable provider under traditional telecommunications laws. It also says that, unlike previous online streaming services that incurred broadcasters’ wrath, like iCraveTV 10 years ago, that it pays broadcasters under copyright laws. The company termed this week’s actions as a “predictable move to stifle innovation and technology,” and in a press release issued yesterday announcing the new service, countered that ivi.TV is “the consumer’s and television industry’s new best friend.”

“We pay broadcasters in accordance with the law, just like cable,” the company said in its response to the lawsuit. “This is not about copyright, this is about competition. 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.”

The plaintiffs said they filed the lawsuit because of their “commitment to protect our rights vigorously. This is a company that’s simply stealing our broadcast signals and copyrighted programming and streaming them on the Internet without permission.” They claim that ivi.TV plans to add several more stations to its streaming service—now carrying signals from Seattle and New York TV stations—and that such actions could lead to “substantial irredeemable losses” to stations and copyright license holders.”

ivi.TV claims that its service, available via a downloadable app for $4.99 a month, after a free 30-day trial,” could save consumers an average of almost $800 a year, based on a current average monthly cable subscription of $71.