As a D.C. appeals court prepared its opinion on a dispute that had been brewing for years, three
of the major broadcasters, CBS, NBC and Fox rushed to settle with FilmOn, the streaming television company based in Beverly Hlls. It brought an end to the battle that had raged for years in appellate circuits from coast to coast.
As Eriq Gardner reported in The Hollywood Reporter, “[By settling now, the broadcasters] jump ahead of a looming decision from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. That one posed risks. At the hearing in March, Neal Katyal, an attorney for the broadcasters, took sharp questioning from skeptical appellate judges. Katyal — whose face was featured across cable news on Monday for representing Hawaii against Donald Trump‘s immigration order — called the FilmOn case the “longest oral argument of my life”….The broadcasters no longer have to worry about a decision by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (nor the 7th Circuit, reviewing a decision in Chicago, either), which could have primed the way for a redux of Aereo at the Supreme Court.”
The broadcasters were unnerved when the Judge Wu of the 9th Circuit decided that FilmOn was likely correct in its interpretation of the Copyright Act of 1976 and Section 111 which granted compulsory license. (It had all began in 2013 when the Broadcasters and now-defunct Aereo went all the way to the Supreme Court). Section 111 was enacted in the 70’s specifically to accommodate the burgeoning cable industry. FilmOn argued that the language was clearly designed to take into account new technologies.
Though the decision in the ninth was recently overturned, broadcasters had good reason to fear that the D.C. court might not go their way.(Read Broadcast & Cable’s “FilmOn Fires Back“) Oral arguments in D.C. reportedly lasted over two hours–with the judges seeming more educated about the issues than any who had heard the case before. Having spent some 200 million dollars on legal fees to fight this battle against innovation and progress, the last thing they wanted to do was pay to tilt windmills at the Supreme Court.
Ryan Baker, the attorney for FilmOn, told TV Mix terms of the settlement are confidential. FilmOn has dropped all of its appeals, including another one in Chicago.