Englewood, Colo. - The Fox, NBC, and CBS broadcast TV networks
made their feelings known about Dish Network's new "Auto Hop" commercial
skipping feature by filing lawsuits against the satellite TV provider for violating
copyright and retransmission.
Earlier, Dish filed a
pre-emptive suit in New York claiming the networks' threats of litigation was
stifling its ability to innovate. Upon announcing The Hopper feature on May 10
and in its legal argument, Dish said the feature was an improvement on the fast
forward and 30-second advance system that has long existed in VCRs and earlier
versions of its own DVRs.
Dish said the feature is nothing more than an improvement on the
video cassette recorder. The Auto Hop feature does not alter the recorded
signal in any way and consumers are free to watch commercials in recorded
content if they so choose.
At this stage, Auto Hop is designed to work only with the PrimeTime
Anytime component offered only in Dish's uber DVR called "The Hopper."
This system automatically records all of the primetime
programming of each of the Big Four network affiliates each night and caches
them on the hard drive for up to eight days. The Auto Hop feature will only
work with programs recorded through the PrimeTime Anytime system.
However, the company has said that it may eventually choose to
expand the capability to other recorded content as well.
Dish's lawsuit is seeking a declaratory judgment that it isn't
infringing on any copyrights and is in compliance with its agreements with the
"Consumers should be able to fairly choose for themselves what
they do and do not want to watch," David Shull, Dish senior VP of programming
said in a statement. "Viewers have been skipping commercials since the advent
of the remote control. We are giving them a feature they want and that gives
them more control."
Fox, NBC and CBS (ABC continues to monitor the situation before
taking action) claimed in separate suits filed in California that the Auto Hop
service will eliminate advertising, which represents their primary means of revenue
In its legal argument, Dish said: "Even though consumers have had
the option, in one form or another, to skip commercials for decades, the major television
networks are threatening Dish with litigation to eliminate Auto Hop, a patented
technology that allows Dish's paying subscribers to avoid commercials that they
might prefer not to watch."
Dish said it has contracts with each of the major networks that
authorize Dish to rebroadcast their signals.
"Dish is required to pay the major television networks hundreds
of millions of dollars per year in retransmission fees, collected from its
subscriber base, for the right to rebroadcast those signals - even though the major
television networks provide their content at no charge to television viewers
with an over-the-air antenna," Dish's statement said.
Public Knowledge, an advocacy group for fair rights use of content,
called out Fox for its actions against the Auto Hop feature.
"It is truly unfortunate for consumers that Fox has filed suit
against Dish Network," said Public Knowledge president Gigi Sohn said in a
statement. "That suit charges Dish with copyright violations for the satellite
company's DVR which allows consumers to skip commercials, but also against the
Sling adapter (formerly Slingbox) which allows consumers to stream their TV
signal to a laptop at a different location. This is a frontal assault on home
recording and fair use. Ordinary consumers are in its crosshairs, while Fox
demands technological stagnation from innovators."