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Well, you can’t fault them for trying, I guess. Cable companies can pay a fee to the Copyright Office and then capture over-the-air television broadcast signals for distribution over their cable network. Upstart ivi.tv plunked down its cash, and then started distributing the live broadcasts from the New York and Los Angeles markets (among others), and retransmitted them over its network. The problem is that their network was the entire Internet.

It was a clever strategy, but like those who skip April 15th by claiming that the Constitution doesn’t say anything about a federal income tax, ivi.tv’s strategy did not find a sympathetic ear in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that it was unlikely that ivi.tv would be successful in its claim that it was a cable company, that it had done irreparable harm to the owners of the copyrighted content (which included the three major networks and Major League Baseball), and was directed to shut down. In specific, the ruling blocked ivi.tv from “streaming over mobile telephone systems and/or the Internet of any of the broadcast television programming in which any plaintiff owns a copyright.”

It sounds like lights out for the rogue service, but it’s not over yet. In a statement from Chief Executive Todd Weaver, he claims that the judge’s ruling was based on the false assumption that ivi.tv was in violation of FCC regulations. To the contrary, he claims that his company “has met with the all the commisioner’s offices of the FCC repeatedly and has received assurances that we are in full and complete compliance.”

So for the moment, it appears that ivi.tv cannot continue to rebroadcast the captured content to subscribers over the Internet, but that it may have grounds to appeal the injunction and perhaps ultimately win its case. This should be interesting.

Posted by Alfred Poor, February 23, 2011 5:00 AM

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About Alfred Poor

Alfred Poor is a well-known display industry expert, who writes the daily HDTV Almanac. He wrote for PC Magazine for more than 20 years, and now is focusing on the home entertainment and home networking markets.