Online television services have advanced potentially a half step with the recent ruling favoring plaintiff FilmOn, an on-demand enterprise that attracted a lot of attention as part of broader, highly publicized cases involving new technologies. U.S. District Judge George Wu issued his preliminary ruling, finding that, if online television services like FilmOn are subject to the same copyright rules as traditional broadcast stations, then they should be allowed the same compulsory license rights under the Copyright Act.
FilmOn up until now had been tangled up in last year’s much-watched U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Aereo. In that case, the justices decided that online television services were subject to the same copyright rules as over-the-air broadcasters, notwithstanding the elaborate technology arguments–what will lawyers do without figuring whether thousands of tiny antennae really are part of a content pipeline?–made by powerhouse counsel for entertainment mogul Barry Diller, Aereo’s financier and chief advocate.
As the saying goes, if you’re going to give me all the responsibilities of an adult, then give me all the freedoms of an adult. (Or maybe that’s just what I use to tell my dad?) If online services were found to violate the Copyright Act’s transmit clause the same way that over-the-air broadcast programs can, then they should be awarded the same §111 license that cable and other broadcasters may obtain. Right?
The case, Wu noted, has won such attention and possesses such complexity, significance, and conflict in laws that he effectively left everything in place, his own ruling aside. He said he anticipates appeals to higher courts.