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FilmOn Wants to Broadcast Local Boston TV Online, Files Motion

By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 22, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Streaming company FilmOn filed a motion challenging a prior D.C. district court injunction, preventing the service from broadcasting local TV in various jurisdictions, including Boston.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, FilmOn argued in its newest motion to modify the prior injunction that a recent Massachusetts federal district court decision in favor of online broadcast of local TV has changed the law enough to make an exception for FilmOn in the First Circuit.

The D.C. court injunction already carves out an exception for online broadcast in the Second Circuit, so what is FilmOn's argument?

Injunction Prevents Online Broadcast of Local TV

Fox Broadcasting, NBC, Disney, CBS, and other TV giants filed a case in the D.C. district court in May 2013 seeking an injunction against FilmOn for essentially re-broadcasting their copyrighted content online for free. FilmOn's service allows online users to watch a myriad of different "channels" of online streaming content, including live streaming television which is broadcast in that user's geographical area.

On September 5, 2013, the D.C. court sided with the broadcasters and issued a preliminary injunction against FilmOn, preventing the online provider from streaming any of the broadcasters' content, in all jurisdictions except the Second Circuit.

Why the Second Circuit? Well it turns out that a similar company called Aereo won its case to stream broadcast TV live in a 2-1 decision before the Second Circuit, so the injunction was crafted to avoid conflict with that jurisprudence.

Obviously steamed about the competition, LiveOn is trying everything it can to lift or at least modify the injunction that prevents them from streaming local TV.

Boston Becomes Local TV Battleground

Aereo is on a roll with the courts apparently, and according to the Boston Business Journal, a Massachusetts federal judge denied an injunction from a Boston TV station owner to prevent Aereo from streaming live local Boston TV.

After this Beantown win for Aereo, FilmOn argued that the D.C. district court should modify its prior injunction based on the Massachusetts court's ruling. Unsurprisingly, in mid-October, that request was denied with the court reminding LiveOn that a district court decision is not the same as a First Circuit decision as far as controlling precedent.

Firing back, FilmOn filed an emergency modification motion on Thursday to reconsider the D.C. court's earlier decision, arguing that a sister court's decision should be persuasive precedent in the district where that court is seated (i.e. Boston). In FilmOn's mind, lower courts should not attempt squelch conflict between circuits that may eventually be decided by SCOTUS.

SCOTUS' review isn't just a hypothetical, broadcasters unhappy with the Aereo ruling in the Second Circuit have already petitioned for cert.

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