Online TV Streams Come Under Fire

In the latest cat-and-mouse game between media companies and technology start-ups threatening to undermine their businesses, the big networks are intensifying their fight to stop Internet services that stream TV stations online.

Owners of the major broadcast-television networks are suing in federal court two start-up companies that stream broadcast TV stations online without their consent, arguing the start-ups are infringing on their copyrights. A judge in New York has scheduled a hearing Monday on the networks’ request for a temporary restraining order against FilmOn.com Inc., while another case against Ivi Inc. could be heard in coming weeks.

Ivi and FilmOn, which grab free over-the-air broadcast signals and convert them to online streams, are claiming their right to distribute the networks under a provision in the U.S. Copyright Act. Seattle-based Ivi is also arguing that Ivi isn’t governed by a separate communications statute that requires cable and satellite companies to negotiate licenses with content owners before transmitting their networks.

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