Washington, DC - Late today, we learned that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta unanimously ruled in favor of the affiliate associations of ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, along with the FOX TV network, in a copyright lawsuit against EchoStar's DISH Network. Under the decision, EchoStar is barred from delivering distant network TV signals to its satellite subscribers.
The Copyright Act allows delivery of distant network stations only to homes "unserved" by local over-the-air affiliates. Beginning in 1998, broadcasters sued EchoStar, alleging that the company willfully and repeatedly violated the law by signing up -- and continuing to deliver distant signals to -- hundreds of thousands of ineligible homes.
The 11th Circuit Court today affirmed a 2003 finding against EchoStar by District Judge William Dimitrouleas that ordered EchoStar to turn off ineligible subscribers. Using harsh language, the appellate court went beyond the lower court in barring EchoStar from delivering distant network TV signals to any of its subscribers. Specifically the court found, "As if the magnitude of its ineligible subscriber base were insufficiently disconcerting, we have found no indication that EchoStar was ever interested in complying with the (Satellite Home Viewer Improvement) Act. ...We seem to have discerned a 'pattern' and 'practice' of violating the Act in every way imaginable."
The following statement can be attributed to NAB President and CEO David K. Rehr:
"NAB is pleased with the unanimous 11th Circuit Court decision. This opinion affirms the importance of localism in television, and vindicates an eight year effort by TV broadcasters to stop EchoStar's blatant and massive abuse of copyright law."