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Supreme Court refuses to hear Ivi’s case; injunction intact

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of ivi, a pay TV service that streamed over-the-air TV signals on the Internet without a license from broadcasters.

The high court denied ivi’s “petition for certiorari” and refused to hear the case. This means a Second Circuit court decision upholding an injunction against the service will remain intact.

ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and other station owners had sued ivi in 2010 for copyright infringement because ivi, a three-year-old company, retransmitted TV signals and streamed them over the Internet to subscribers who paid a monthly fee. The broadcasters claimed ivi retransmitted the signals, which are downloaded on ivi’s dedicated TV player, without copyright permission.

Ivi argued that it should be defined as a cable operator and pay only a compulsory copyright license. The previously FCC refused that definition of the company.

The ivi case is a precursor to a much tougher Internet case for broadcasters. The same group of broadcasters is suing Aereo, another streaming service in New York City backed by deep-pocketed media mogul Barry Diller.

The Aereo case is different, however. Rather than just taking content from broadcasters, Aereo rents subscribers an antenna to pick up the signals to be streamed via the Internet, thus avoiding the copyright issues. So far, Aereo has fought the broadcasters successfully in court. A federal judge in New York ruled in July that the service doesn't appear to violate copyright law because individual subscribers are assigned their own, tiny antenna at Aereo's Brooklyn data center, making it similar to the free signal a consumer would get with a regular antenna at home.

The company recently announced it would bring its $8-a-month service to Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington and 18 other markets in the U.S., as well as to New York's suburbs. It’s currently only available in New York City.

As to the court decision regarding ivi, NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said his organization agrees that the injunction protects against the misuse of broadcast network content.

“NAB is pleased the Supreme Court refused to review the finding that ivi’s unauthorized retransmission of TV programming over the Internet without the permission of content owners is illegal,” Wharton said.