Online TV Streams and Screams

By Cindy Waxer November 23, 2010

What TV programs can and cannot be aired over the Internet is a hot-button issue these days as age-old copyright laws and traditional television programming principles try desperately to catch up with modern-day technology. Eager to stake its territory, owners of the major U.S. broadcast television networks are filing suit in federal court against two start-up companies that stream broadcast TV stations without their consent, according to an article in today's Wall Street Journal.

The report reveals that the networks are arguing that the start-ups are infringing on their copyrights. A judge in New York is scheduled to rule this week on the networks' request for a temporary restraining order against Inc. A second, similar case against Ivi, Inc., will probably be heard in coming weeks.

Both Ivi and FilmOn borrow free over-the-air broadcast signals and convert them to online streams. Their defense: it's their right to distribute the network material under a provision in the U.S. Copyright Act. The Journal reports that “Seattle-based Ivi is also arguing that Ivi isn't governed by a separate communications statute that requires cable and satellite companies to negotiate licenses with content owners before transmitting their networks.”

Not so, say networks including NBC Universal, Walt Disney’s ABC, CBS Corp., News Corp.’s Fox and others major networks.

In the meantime, Viacom has put the kybosh on full-length episodes of shows it runs on the Internet to users of Google TV, joining a growing number of television programmers refusing to provide content on the search giant’s new Internet television platform.

In early November, reported that News Corp., the folks who bring you Fox, also opted to block Google TV devices from accessing full-length episodes of its TV shows when searched from Google TV’s Web browser. The Sony television that comes with Google TV software can still access networks like any regular TV, just not their online counterparts. The Logitech set-top box that comes with Google TV also does not interfere with regular TV signals.

TechZone360 Contributing Editor

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