Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Network
By Simon Heimowitz – Edited by Samantha Rothberg
Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Network, No. 12-57048 (9th Cir. July 24, 2013)
Slip Opinion, hosted by eff.org
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court decision to deny Fox Broadcasting Company’s (“Fox”) request for a preliminary injunction against Dish Network’s (“Dish”) “AutoHop,” a product associated with Dish’s “Hopper.” The Hopper allows subscribers to automatically record Fox’s primetime television shows and then view them with the commercials fast-forwarded, without manual user involvement.
The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in deciding that Fox “did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on its copyright infringement and breach of contract claims regarding Dish’s implementation of [two television recording products].” Fox Broadcasting Co. v. Dish Network, No. 12-57048, slip op. at 10 (9th Cir. July 24, 2013). The court determined that Dish Network was not responsible for directly infringing Fox’s copyright because the consumer initiates the copying process, not Dish Network. Id. at 12. The court also ruled that Dish would not be held liable for secondary infringement because although Fox carried its burden of proving direct infringement by consumers, Dish successfully raised an “affirmative defense that its customers’ copying was a ‘fair use.’” Id. at 13 (citation omitted). The court affirmed that Fox was unlikely to succeed on its breach of contract claims against Dish, noting that the commercial-skipping function of the Hopper product “does not implicate Fox’s copyright interest because Fox owns the copyrights to the television programs, not to the ads aired in the commercial breaks.” Id. at 14–15. The Ninth Circuit considered a number of related precedents in determining that the Hopper’s noncommercial time-shifting function was non-infringing fair use. See id. at 13–15.
The New York Times and Reuters provide an overview of the case. Ars Technica features an analysis of the decision and provides detailed context regarding the rancorous history between Dish and major TV networks over the Hopper. (more…)