Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Goodbye, Free TV on Your iPad. For Now…

The only surprise here is that it took this long: A federal court has put the kibosh on a Web site that served up programming from broadcast TV networks for free, without their permission.

A federal judge in New York has issued a temporary restraining order against, which has riled up the U.S. TV industry for a couple of months. The four broadcast networks–News Corp.’s Fox, GE’s NBC, Disney’s ABC and CBS–had asked for the order on Nov. 9.

FilmOn argues that the U.S. copyright act allows it to redistribute broadcast programming; Ivi Inc., a Seattle-based company that offers a similar service, makes the same argument.

FilmOn offers a free service that’s supposed to work on conventional PCs, as well as on mobile devices like Apple’s iPad. As of Monday evening it wasn’t clear whether FilmOn had actually taken down the streams, or if the service was simply misfiring, as it has been prone to do.

UPDATE: Here’s FilmOn’s response, issued Tuesday morning:


Los Angeles, CA – November 23, 2010 – Inc. CEO and Chairman, Alki David today issued the following statement regarding the ruling made by the New York Southern District Court, which issued a temporary restraining order, in effect pending the court’s decision on if it will issue a preliminary injunction.

“We respect the Court’s decision in this matter and have temporarily ceased retransmission of free network television on FilmOn. In the few weeks FilmOn provided free access to basic television on consumers’ mobile devices, it received more than 30 million individual users. We also garnered dozens of positive reviews about our free service’s quality and ease of use. We have, in essence, shown full proof of concept of the FilmOn delivery system–proving that millions of viewers will watch our superior television service online, all with commercials, adding millions of extra impressions that enhance network’s value to its viewers and advertisers.”

“FilmOn has succeeded in securing partnerships with several independent broadcast channels to be able to keep a compelling live offering online in the near future. Coupled with our own library of content and that of our partners, FilmOn will remain open for business. “

We do expect to bring the major networks back to our lineup in the near future, all in a legitimate and collaborative business model. We have already begun very positive discussions with TV networks affiliates and other content owners to provide our delivery service and measurement analytics to stream their live content online.

Scott Zarin, Zarin & Associates P.C., legal counsel for FilmOn added:

“In addressing FilmOn’s argument that it is exempt from copyright infringement liability as a cable system, the court indicated that it was not convinced–on the facts currently known to it–which this is the case. Although the court issued a Temporary Restraining Order, it is providing FilmOn with an opportunity to elaborate upon its ‘cable system’ argument more thoroughly in a hearing on the Networks’ request for a preliminary injunction.

“FilmOn will be drafting papers in opposition to the Networks’ motion for a preliminary injunction in the coming weeks, with which it expects to submit to the court the opinion of an expert on FilmOn’s technology in order to demonstrate that FilmOn is indeed a cable system. If FilmOn successfully opposes the Networks’ motion for a preliminary injunction, the court’s Temporary Restraining Order–which by law can only remain in effect for a short duration–will be dissolved.”

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