As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a dispute between television networks and online streaming service Aereo Inc., national broadcasters have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to put a similar case on hold.
The networks sued online streaming company FilmOn X LLC in Washington federal court last year, accusing FilmOn of violating federal law by transmitting copyrighted material over the internet. The networks lodged similar claims against Aereo, and appealed to the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with Aereo.
FilmOn, according to court papers filed Jan. 13 by the networks in the D.C. Circuit, "will not consent to the requested relief" of putting the proceedings on hold pending the Supreme Court's review of the Aereo case. The high court granted review of the Aereo case on Jan 10.
A lead attorney for FilmOn, Ryan Baker of Baker Marquart, said today he would file an opposition to the networks' motion soon. FilmOn, he said, is arguing for reversal of the injunction "as soon as possible" to allow the company to operate and compete with Aereo in areas where there aren't injunctions in place.
"There's no guarantee as to when any ruling from the Supreme Court will be issued," he said. "In light of that, FilmOn is intending to press on with its appeal to invalidate what it considers a wrong, incorrect order by the district court."
Aereo and FilmOn use tiny antennas to transmit television broadcasts online. The networks claimed the companies were using the technology to get around federal copyright law.
Courts have split on whether the streaming services violate federal law. Although the Second Circuit sided with Aereo, Judge Rosemary Collyer of Washington federal district court in September granted the networks an injunction that blocked FilmOn from operating outside of the Second Circuit. Collyer found the company was retransmitting copyrighted material in violation of federal law.
A federal trial court in California had previously granted an injunction to the networks blocking blocking FilmOn-at the time known as Aereokiller-from streaming within the boundaries of the Ninth Circuit.
In the D.C. Circuit, the networks argued putting the case on hold made sense because the Supreme Court's decision in the Aereo case "will necessarily address the same questions of law presented in this appeal."
Jenner & Block partner Paul Smith represents the Fox network. Other networks, including NBC, ABS, CBS, Telemundo and Disney, are represented by Robert Alan Garrett of Arnold & Porter.
Updated at 12:51 p.m.
National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.