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Can Ivi Beat the Big Broadcasters?

The major broadcasters usually can’t agree on much, but they’ve agreed to band together and file a lawsuit against Ivi, claiming that the online video startup is infringing copyrights. The suit, filed in the Southern District of New York yesterday, aims to shut down Ivi’s video service, which retransmits over-the-air broadcast signals online.

Ivi’s system works by relaying live TV feeds from more than 40 broadcasters — including ABC, (s DIS) CBS, (s CBS) Fox, (s NWS) NBC (s GE) and Telemundo — to online viewers. It claims to be operating under a legal loophole which says that cable and satellite companies can legally retransmit over-the-air broadcast content as long as they pay semi-annual fees to the U.S. Copyright Office. The startup says it has already applied to pay those fees, which are later distributed to rights holders.

It should come as little surprise that the broadcasters disagree with Ivi’s reading of the law, and have pressured it with cease and desist letters, calling for the startup to take down the online video service. That prompted Ivi to file a preemptive lawsuit against certain broadcasters last week.

The latest volley in the battle between Ivi and broadcasters came yesterday, as a group of TV programmers filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement for unauthorized retransmission of their live TV feeds. Plaintiffs in this latest suit, entitled WPIX Inc. v. Ivi Inc., include ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, Major League Baseball and many more.

What Ivi’s doing is not a new idea, and its legal foundation is a little shaky. As one of our commenters noted a few weeks ago when Ivi launched, a startup called iCraveTV tried more than 10 years ago to exploit the same legal loophole before being “sued out of existence.”

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3 Responses to “Can Ivi Beat the Big Broadcasters?”

  1. First of all, we hope to see everyone at NewTeeVee Live. It is THE place to be if you are relevant in iTV!

    Regarding this smokescreen of copyright nonsense, please follow the links and comments that follow.

    I have uploaded their cease and desist letters at the link above. I note that we publicly educated and enlightened the NAB about the iCrave matter they were hoping to use as a precedent and mentioned in most of the C&Ds, but the truth is, no precedent exists. iCrave doesn’t apply for a long list of reasons, not the least of which include the fact that they were altering the retransmission by “wrapping ads” into the signal and it was a significant deterioration of the signal. We all would have loved live TV a decade ago, but bandwidth was not ready. I note that yesterday’s Complaint didn’t bother with the iCrave matter, so I think our message resonated. If it mattered at all, it would have been referenced in their anti-competition, anti-innovation, weak copyright Complaint filed yesterday.

    Our response to the NAB to further your perspective about iCrave is here:

    And our response to their Complaint follows:

    ivi TV Response to Lawsuit Filed Against it by Big Media

    Seattle (September 28, 2010) – ivi TV issued a statement today in response to a Complaint filed against it by a group of copyright conglomerates. Case number 10 CV 7415, filed in United States District Court Southern District of New York.

    Commenting on the development, ivi TV CEO Todd Weaver said:

    “This is a predictable move by big media to try and stifle innovation and technology. We pay broadcasters in accordance with the law, just like cable. This is not about copyright, this is about competition. In an initial knee-jerk reaction, broadcasters fought against cable companies, then joined them. Broadcasters then fought against satellite companies, then joined them. Today, it is our turn. ivi TV pays broadcasters and we increase their viewership. Broadcasters charge more in advertising in return due to the increase in viewers. It is unfortunate that big media chooses to fight innovation that is legal, pays them, and increases their revenue. History keeps repeating itself, however. This is EchoStar (satellite), Slingbox and a litany of other innovations the industry tried, but failed, to sue away. The smart move would be for broadcasters to take a cue from the music industry and innovate rather than litigate, as cable TV goes the way of the landline telephone business.”

    Hal Bringman
    hal (at)
    +1.310-210-8011 (mobile)
    Skype: halbringman
    Twitter: @halbringman

  2. I hope Ivi wins … selfishly, cause I love it. Plus, shouldn’t it be the service providers that are pissed (i.e. Time Warner, etc.) aren’t they the ones losing money? The broadcasters still get their commercials shown – can we get Nelson ratings to extend to Ivi?