The Consumer Electronics Association has sided with Dish Network in its battles with television networks over the legality of the satellite operator’s commercial-skipping Auto Hop feature. The CEA (alongside the Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Internet Association) filed an amicus brief yesterday to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals supporting Dish’s defense against Fox out of concerns that “the outcome of this case will affect the future of private non-commercial time-shifting of television programs.”
In the brief, it is argued that the time-shifting functionality of Auto Hop is protected by the original 1984 Betamax Supreme Court ruling in Sony Corp. of America v. University City Studios, Inc. It continues on to say that to “find use of the Hopper for these purposes to infringe Fox’s copyrights essentially would be to reverse Sony and hold that most if not all forms of private time-shifting are illegal.” Additionally, Fox’s concerns over losing “control over its copyrighted works” due to the Hopper is called out as “rank speculation” that mimics the same worries presented in the Sony case 28 years ago.
“[The Hopper is] a fair use right expressly recognized by the Supreme Court almost three decades ago.”
Last year, Fox was denied a preliminary injunction against Dish Network that would have blocked the use of Auto Hop — or halted sales of the Hopper altogether. Separate cases with CBS and ABC are ongoing, with the former claiming that Dish covered up its Auto Hop feature when working out its latest contract negotiations. Tensions in that case have risen after CBS-owned CNET was forced to re-vote after awarding the Hopper with Sling its “Best of CES” award earlier this month. In a statement, CEA CEO Gary Shapiro called the Hopper “an exciting new product that will make television viewing easier and likely encourage viewers to watch more TV,” and he suggested that “broadcasters should try innovating rather than litigating.”