Fox TV Stations, Inc. v. FilmOn X LLC

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright, Transmit Clause of the Copyright Act
  • Date Filed: 09-05-2013
  • Case #: Civil Action No. 13-758
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: United States District Court for the District of Columbia
  • LexisNexis Citation: 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126543
  • Westlaw Citation: 2013 WL 4763414
  • Full Text Opinion

Even if each consumer has an individual antenna, transmission of live TV by a commercial company violates the Transmit Clause of the Copyright Act of 1976.

Opinion (Collyer): Defendants operated Film On X, a service that uses the internet to give consumers the ability to watch live television on their computers or mobile devices. Plaintiffs, ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, were copyright holders who had not licensed any of their content to FilmOn X. Plaintiffs claimed that FilmOn X violated the plaintiffs’ copyrights under the 1976 Copyright Act and sought a preliminary injunction. FilmOn X responded that there was no public performance of a copyrighted work if there was a one-to-one relationship between a copy of the copyrighted work and the recipient. FilmOn X argued that so long as each FilmOn X user has his own assigned antenna, there is no copyright violation. To establish a prima facie case of direct copyright infringement, a plaintiff must show ownership of alleged infringed material and a violation of one of the exclusive rights of copyright holders set forth in 17 U.S.C. section 106. Plaintiffs argue that FilmOn X falls squarely within the Transmit Clause because it retransmits the same broadcast of a television program to multiple subscribers through its antenna systems. The plaintiffs’ further argue that in enacting the legislation, Congress intended that all commercial enterprises who retransmit copyrighted material and must obtain a license. FilmOn X argued in response that it did not permit public performance of copyright work. FilmOn X asserted that it enables only individual private performances of the copyrighted works and does not infringe Plaintiffs’ exclusive rights. Further, FilmOn X urged the court to look from the perspective of an individual consumer whose right to use technology as a matter of personal convenience is a long-standing and fundamental principle of modern copyright jurisprudence. In interpreting the 1976 statute, the court held that the provisions of the Act infer that FilmOn X’s service violated Plaintiffs’ exclusive right to perform the copyrighted work publicly and that FilmOn X fell within the prohibitions of the statute by transmitting a performance of the work to the public by the means of a device or process. The court went on to state that even if the statute were ambiguous, the legislative history confirms that Congress’s intent was for the transmit clause to be applied broadly. Responding to FilmOn X’s argument regarding consumers having individual antennae, the court determined that because of the complex passage of electronic transmission signals, the system is hardly akin to an individual user stringing up a television antenna on the roof. Finding that all elements of a preliminary injunction had been met, the court GRANTED the Plaintiff’s preliminary injunction.

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