I’m getting tired of this.
Fox Broadcasting has asked for a preliminary injunction against Dish Network to block the new features of its Hopper with Sling receiver. “Paying Dish for a satellite television subscription does not buy anyone the right to receive Fox’s live broadcast signal over the Internet or to make copies of Fox programs to watch ‘on the go,’ because Dish does not have the right to offer these services to its subscribers in the first place,” Fox said. A hearing is set for March 22. (You can read more about it from Bloomberg or Multichannel News.)
Where to begin? None of these features are new, they’re just more convenient. I’ve been watching Fox over-the-air broadcasts (among others) remotely through my older Dish receiver for a couple of years now. I’ve been recording Fox shows on various DVRs for over a decade. (There are times I still miss my TiVo.) While watching those shows on my DVR, I’ve skipped past commercials. And for a few special occasions, I’ve recorded those shows to my computer and transferred them to a mobile device. All of these actions are legal, fair use for my private viewing.
And how did Fox get those programs to me? By broadcasting over the public airwaves that it is licensed to use, for which it paid next to nothing. In exchange for serving us, the viewers, who own those airwaves. If some new technology allows more in-market viewers the opportunity to watch more of an OTA station’s programming, I would expect that the broadcaster would be all for it. Instead, we have a system where anyone who doesn’t watch with an OTA antenna is expected to pay for the privilege, money that goes to enrich the broadcaster’s shareholders.
The good news, if there is any here, is that Dish Network may be the least court-averse company in the USA, and it has extremely deep pockets. I expect that Dish will fight this as far as it can go, and if we’re all very lucky, Dish might be able to establish a legal precedent to show that watching TV from your own OTA antenna is always okay, even when it’s on a smartphone in another city. Then broadcasters might be forced to remember that they need to serve viewers as well as shareholders.