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Dish Wins 1st Round In ‘AutoHop’ Case

Los Angeles — Fox Broadcasting Company’s legal challenge to Dish Network’s controversial commercial-skipping DVR called the Hopper was rejected by a Federal District Court judge here Wednesday.

Fox had sought a court injunction to block Dish’s AutoHop technology in the Hopper because it felt the feature would interfere with its ability to garner advertising revenue.

But in a statement late Wednesday, Dish said District Judge Dolly Gee rejected Fox’s request.

The ruling was kept under seal pending the removal of confidential trade information, but Dish quickly published the results of the judge’s Wednesday decision.

“Dish is gratified that the court has sided with consumer choice and control,” stated Stanton Dodge, Dish general counsel and executive VP.

Fox released a statement saying it plans to appeal the ruling, adding: “Dish is marketing and benefiting from an unauthorized service that illegally copies Fox’s valuable programming.”

Fox also claimed it won a partial victory because the court “found the copies Dish makes for its AutoHop service constitute copyright infringement.”

Dish responded that customers using the service cannot be liable for copyright infringement.

Dish’s PrimeTime Anytime feature in the Hopper DVR allows users to record all primetime shows on broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and save them for up to eight days.  The AutoHop feature allows users to play back certain PrimeTime Anytime recordings without commercials starting at midnight the following day.

The ruling enables Dish to continue to offer its subscribers the Hopper whole-home DVR with both the PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop features. 

In her decision the Dish said the judge found that:

  •  Dish customers using PrimeTime Anytime cannot be liable for copyright infringement.
  • Copies made using the Hopper’s PrimeTime Anytime feature do not infringe on Fox’s exclusive reproduction rights under federal copyright laws.
  • Neither the AutoHop commercial-skipping feature nor the PrimeTime Anytime feature constitutes unauthorized distribution under federal copyright laws.
  • AutoHop does not violate the video-on-demand provisions of the 2010 retransmission consent agreement between Fox and Dish.
  • Copies of Fox programs that Dish makes as part of its “quality assurance” of AutoHop’s functionality likely violate the [retransmission consent] agreements between Dish and Fox, and likely violate Fox’s exclusive reproduction right under federal copyright laws, but;
  • Fox has not established that is has suffered irreparable harm as a result of Dish’s making the quality assurance copies.