WNET, WGBH and nine other broadcasters are signatories to several cease and desist letters to the Seattle startup ivi, which is selling Internet access to their live TV signals. And ivi has responded by filing a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment of Copyright Noninfringement (PDF) in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday (Sept. 20), in what it calls "a preemptive move to discourage needless litigation from big media." All that then prompted the National Association of Broadcasters to issue a strongly worded statement Tuesday (Sept. 21). "It is blatantly illegal to steal broadcasters' copyrighted works and signals," said NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton. "We strongly support broadcasters and their program suppliers in their efforts to combat copyright abuse and signal piracy."
The controversial company captures and encodes live television signals then routes the encrypted signals through an app to be viewed by consumers via a Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer. Mobile devices, tablets, and set-top-box integration are coming soon, according to ivi's website -- which includes the promo line, "Watch the Berenstain Bears on PBS!"
In addition to WNET and WGBH, broadcasters that sent letters of protest to ivi and are named as defendants in ivi's suit are: NBC-Universal, CBS, Disney, ABC, The CW Television Stations, Inc., Fox Television, Major League Baseball, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and Fisher Communications.
A spokesman for ivi declined to tell Current if it has yet paid WGBH and WNET for content, and if so how much and when and how the payments were made. "Payments will be made in accordance with law," Hal Bringman said. He also declined to say how many users ivi currently has. The service launched Sept. 13.
UPDATE: WGBH has provided Current with this statement: "WGBH’s position is that unauthorized commercial exploitation of our copyrighted material, and the creative and financial resources that went into their production, is illegal. WGBH is working closely with WNET on this issue to protect public television programming assets."