Court OKs contempt finding against firm streaming TV shows

AP News
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Posted: Feb 16, 2016 9:44 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a judge's contempt ruling against a company that continued streaming TV shows over the Internet after the Supreme Court outlawed the system used to do it.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan rejected FilmOn.com Inc.'s claims that a judge abused his discretion by holding the company in contempt and penalizing it $90,000. The company also was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in legal fees.

The company, which began operating in 2010, had argued that it was operating like a cable television company as it allowed subscribers to use computers to stream television stations over the Internet.

The appeals court said FilmOn "cavalierly doubled down" and continued copyright breaches after the Supreme Court ruled in 2014 against a competitor, Aereo Inc. FilmOn had argued that the high court ruling "destroyed the state of clarity" surrounding broadcasters' copyrights and "created confusion," the 2nd Circuit noted.

"FilmOn's arguments are unpersuasive," the appeals court said.

The three-judge panel said the Supreme Court ruling "explicitly slammed shut" the possibility FilmOn could continue deploying its system.

FilmOn.com attorney Ryan Baker said the company was disappointed. He said the ruling will not "deter them from continuing to fight for broader access to television content."

FilmOn had argued before the 2nd Circuit that a court order resulting from a settlement it reached with broadcasters in 2012 not to infringe copyrights was unclear and ambiguous because broadcasters' rights under the Copyright Act were in flux and uncertain.

The company was sued by various broadcasters, including CBS Broadcasting Inc., NBC Studios Inc., Universal Network Television LLC, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Television Stations Inc., Disney Enterprises Inc., NBC Studios LLC, American Broadcasting Cos. Inc., Big Ticket Television Inc. and Open 4 Business Productions LLC.

CBS spokeswoman Kelli Raftery declined to comment. Others did not immediately return messages seeking comment.