PBS suit

Broadcaster Windows to the World (WTTW) of Chicago, a private company operating a PBS station in the Illinois area, has asked a Judge Charles Kocoras, judge of the District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, to order FilmOn Networks to refrain from transmitting WTTW’s programming without authorization, something FilmOn has already agreed not to do at this time. At issue is the use of new technology to stream over-the-air broadcast television to consumer devices without cable or satellite subscriptions. The FilmOn model is based on the fact that the public has the legal right to access the signals for free. After the Supreme Court determined that the use of user-controlled, uniquely assigned miniature antennas to access over-the-air programming resulted in public performance in ABC et al v. Aereo in May 2014, FilmOn suspended use of the antennas and began a successful campaign to get the FCC to modernize rules to allow MVPD’s to provide television content online under the same rules as cable providers. The copyright issues remain open and are the subject of several pending litigations, including the case between FilmOn and WTTW.

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WTTW has asked that Judge Kocoras block FilmOn from obtaining a compulsory cable license under the Copyright Act. Now that the FCC has proposed rule changes that would allow FilmOn to work toward operating with the same privileges and regulations cable companies have–something the FCC signaled it was likely to do as far back as August 2014–WTTW’s arguments may be losing steam. In the media, a handful of gullible bloggers seem willing to take the bait and give coverage to WTTW’s attacks.

As FilmOn attorney Ryan Baker says, “Windows to the World purports to be a public broadcasting station. But actions speak louder than words. In this case, much louder — WTTW continues to battle FilmOn, which offers WTTW more distribution to the public WTTW purports to serve. Obviously, other forces are at play here, forces acting against the public interest. And it should not be forgotten that the same attorneys who represent Fox and its affiliates in other actions seeking to prevent broader distribution of over-the-air television programming across the country also represent this purported public interest station. It is doubtful that that WTTW is truly acting in the public’s interest.”

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