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Dish wins Hopper victory against FOX on West Coast

A federal judge in California has denied a preliminary injunction by FOX in its lawsuit against Dish’s place-shifting “Hopper” DVR. The ruling comes only a week after a New York judge ruled for Dish against ABC and CBS. In both cases, Dish was allowed to continue both ad-skipping and out-of-home viewing with its “Hopper” (opens in new tab) technology.

The California case pertains to Dish’s Hopper with Sling, also known as “Dish Anywhere,” which was introduced at CES last January. In this case, FOX focused not on ad skipping, but on streaming and recording programming over the Internet to be viewed outside the home. FOX claimed Dish not only violated copyright law, but also its contract with the network.

“Today’s decision is the fourth in a string of victories for consumers related to our Hopper Whole-Home DVR platform,” said R. Stanton Dodge, Dish’s general counsel. “DISH is pleased that the Court has sided again with consumer choice and control by rejecting Fox’s efforts to deny our customers’ access to the DISH Anywhere and Hopper Transfers features.”

FOX, as with ABC and CBS last week in New York, did not concede defeat. According to a statement from FOX: “We have just received the ruling, and while the judge found that FOX could prevail at trial on the merits of the case, she did not grant our preliminary injunction. We disagree that the harms caused by Dish’s infringing services are completely compensable by damages, and as a result we are looking at all options. We will file a response in due course.”

In its motion asking for the injunction, FOX argued that paying Dish for a satellite television subscription did not buy anyone the right to receive FOX’s live broadcast signal over the Internet or to make copies of FOX programs to watch “on the go,” because Dish did not have the right to offer these services to its subscribers in the first place.

Last week, another federal judge in New York City denied the ABC Network’s efforts to block Dish’s commercial-skipping “Hopper” video recorder features with its Prime Time Anywhere service. Claims made by CBS were also denied in the case.

With Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime feature, users have the ability to record the primetime shows on up to each of the four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) and save them for up to eight days. The AutoHop feature can be enabled by users to play back certain PrimeTime Anytime recordings commercial-free, starting the day after broadcast.

The broadcasters argue that Hopper infringes on their copyrights. ABC added that it also violates Dish’s agreement that allows it to distribute the network’s programming.

Regardless of the eventual outcome, the court rulings are a clear trend against the interests of broadcasters. Aereo, another thorn in the side of broadcasters, has also established a winning streak in federal courts, which has helped drive its current momentum.

As of this month, the streaming TV service added new services in Chicago, Miami, Houston and Dallas, which went live earlier this week. Aereo began service in New York City and later launched to Boston and Atlanta. Once these four new cities are launched, the company said it would be serving 26 cities (since its launch in New York City in March 2012).