Fox to Fight Ruling Internet TV Provider Could Get License

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Twenty-First Century Fox Inc.’s television unit said it will appeal a ruling that Internet streaming service FilmOn X LLC might be entitled to a compulsory license as a cable TV provider to transmit broadcasters’ programming.

A federal judge in Los Angeles put his ruling on hold for Fox and other broadcasters to appeal his decision and left in place an earlier order that shut down FilmOn’s service until the lawsuit has been resolved.

“This advisory opinion contravenes all legal precedent,” a Fox spokesman, Scott Grogin, said Friday in an e-mailed statement. “The court only found that FilmOn could potentially qualify for a compulsory license, and we do not believe that is a possibility. We will of course appeal and fully expect to prevail.”

Fox sued FilmOn X in 2012 as part of the legal battles broadcasters have waged against online streaming services that threaten to undermine their revenues. Aereo Inc., backed by Barry Diller, went out of business and filed for bankruptcy after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that its technology violated broadcasters’ copyrights.

U.S. District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles said in his tentative decision that the legal issues were “close” and that the commercial issues were “significant,” allowing an immediate appeal by Fox. The judge also said his ruling conflicts with that of a court in New York in an analogous case.

This case is about “the right for any service that operates over the Internet to compete with other means of network television distribution,” Ryan Baker, a lawyer for FilmOn, said in a telephone interview. “It gives them the ability to compete with what people consider traditional cable companies.”

The case is Fox Television Stations Inc. v. FilmOn X, 12-cv-06921, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).

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