In July 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that major broadcasters, including CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox News, might be forced to license their broadcasts to FilmOn X for streaming. Now, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has ruled the opposite.
FilmOn X has claimed that, like cable and satellite television programming providers, it should have a compulsory license allowing it to stream broadcasts from the four major networks. FilmOn X is arguing that it should receive the compulsory license under the Copyright Act Section 111. The major broadcasters are currently appealing the California district court ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
The District of Columbia’s District Court ruling indicated that the company is guilty of infringing on the intellectual property rights of the major broadcasters under the Copyright Act. It is likely that FilmOn X will appeal that decision. With the two different decisions out of different federal circuits, it is also likely that the battle may continue on to the Supreme Court. In 2014, the Supreme Court’s decision in the Aereo case found that that company was guilty of infringing in a similar situation. Now, the FCC is considering proposed changes to its rules in order to classify streaming services under the same standard as satellite and cable television, which could lead to a good result for FilmOn X.
When a company holds a copyright on its creative work, others are unable to use that work without first obtaining written permission from the copyright holder. The Copyright Act does allow cable and satellite companies to avoid doing so for the four major broadcast networks. It will be interesting to see if streaming services are moved to the same category as more people access the Internet for entertainment than watch television.
Source: Deadline, “Broadcasters score big Copyright Act win over FilmOn X; Appeal coming,” Dominic Patten, Nov. 12, 2015.