Judge denies move to ban ad-skipping DVR

Court Dishes it to Murdoch's Fox


US satellite broadcaster Dish Networks can continue providing its subscribers with a DVR capable of automatically skipping adverts, a US District Court judge has ruled.

Judge Dolly Gee in the Central District of California court this week refused News International’s Fox Broadcasting subsidiary a preliminary injunction to prevent Dish shipping its Hopper Whole-Home DVR to punters.

Push a button on the set-top box’s remote control and it’ll automatically bypass ads during playback, but only when the content is viewed more than a day after broadcast. The Hopper will record primetime shows and save them for up to eight days.

In a statement, Dish’s legal chief, R Stanton Dodge, said the ruling was a “victory for common sense and customer choice”.

Fox said it was “disappointed” with the ruling, but promised to appeal against it.

In any case, the company’s legal action against Dish continues. Fox maintains that Dish’s ad-skipping system, called AutoHop, not only breaches its content supply contract with Dish but that it also amounts to copyright infringement.

Indeed, Fox said it was pleased that the judge had accepted that allegation, despite denying the preliminary injunction against Dish.

Judge Gee’s ruling has yet to be made public, and we only have the statements from Dish and Fox as pointers to its content.

Fox launched its action against Dish in May 2012. So did ABC, NBC Universal and CBS. All three are no doubt worried about a potential loss of advertising revenue. Why will advertisers be willing to pay so much for primetime ad slots if a large number of viewers can simply bypass them?

For its part, Dish says its system is protected by 1980s judgements that home video cassette recorder makers are not liable when the devices’ users infringe copyright by recording shows off the air. It has also counter-sued the plaintiffs, alleging they conspired against it. ®

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