TV Networks File Legal Claims Saying Skipping Commercials Is Copyright Infringement

from the wow dept

Okay, we had expected the TV networks to possibly take legal action against DISH Networks for its new Auto Hopper technology, which allows DISH subscribers who use the Hopper feature (which records all prime time shows from the four major networks) to autoskip commercials, if they watch shows in the days after they originally air. It wasn’t a surprise that the TV networks didn’t like this at all, but could they really make a legal argument that skipping commercials was against the law? We’ve all heard the story of former Turner Broadcasting exec Jamie Kellner claiming that not watching commercials was “theft,” but do the networks actually think there’s a legal basis for such claims?

It appears they do. Though, the legal arguments are insane.

As you may have heard by now, Fox, CBS and NBC Universal have all sued DISH in California. At about the same time, DISH itself filed for declaratory judgment in New York against those three, and ABC, who hasn’t yet filed suit, but perhaps will shortly. I would imagine that all of the cases will be consolidated in one of the courts.

What’s scary, however, is that the TV networks appear to be using this lawsuit to claim that skipping commercials is copyright infringement. I haven’t yet seen the NBC filing, but the Fox and CBS filings both make this same basic argument. Update: NBC filing is added below, and is nearly identical to the CBS filing, down to the very same lawyers. Fox first argues that merely recording the entire prime time lineup is making “bootleg” copies of the videos. That’s a rather stunning claim, and a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Betamax case, which made it clear that time-shifting is legal. The networks are claiming that this is not the same thing, because the “copies” aren’t being made by the user, but by DISH itself for use by the user. Beyond being a meaningless distinction, it’s also not true. As the Cablevision case concerning a “remote DVR” offered by the service provider showed, if the actions are at the request of the consumer, then it’s the consumer making the call. With the DISH offering, the subscriber is still the one pushing the button and asking the DVR to record the shows. Is it really that different that it takes one button rather than punching in a few shows? That would be extraordinary — but these filings are full of such extraordinary claims.

Where the filings go really off the wall is in basically saying that skipping commercials is infringement. They do this in the sections on “inducement,” wherein they suggest that, even if DISH doesn’t directly infringe, it is is inducing infringement by offering the auto commercial skip feature to users. From the CBS filing:

Users of the Hopper’s PrimeTime AnyTime feature who record Plaintiff’s prime-time shows and use the Hopper’s Auto Hop feature to automatically skip commercials otherwise contained in those recordings infringe Plaintiffs’ exclusive reproduction rights under section 106 of the Copyright Act,

But this makes no sense. Recording the show for later viewing is already deemed legal. So the only difference here is the intent of the user to watch later to skip commercials. Thus, CBS seems to be saying that merely wanting to avoid commercials is, itself, direct copyright infringement. And, given that Auto Hop doesn’t work until the day after the shows air, does that mean that it’s legal to record the shows if you intend to watch them the same day… but the second your intention is to watch them later, it’s copyright infringement? That makes no sense and has absolutely no basis in the law. And, uh, what happens if you record it with the intent to watch the next day and skip commercials… but then watch it the same day with the commercials? The allegation above says merely recording the shows with intent to skip commercials is infringement, even if you don’t actually skip the commercials! That makes no sense.

Fox’s filing makes similar claims, insisting that DISH is inducing infringement because it “took active steps to encourage its subscribers to use Primetime Anytime to infringe FOX’s copyrights.” But that’s flat out malarkey. It’s legal for users to time shift shows. That’s established. Yet, these filings seem to want to totally ignore that, and then assume that a user watching a DVR’d s how is automatically infringing on copyright because they might skip commercials.

The argument makes absolutely no sense at all. Effectively, the networks are trying to claim inducement to infringe… but do not (and, indeed, can not) show what or who is actually infringing. Time shifting is legal. Not watching commercials is legal. So, er, where’s the copyright infringement, unless you completely throw out the Betamax ruling?

The filings also go down the path of explaining how this disrupts their business model. They honestly seem to be arguing for what some people have amusingly referred to as “felony interference with a business model.” They list out all the different ways they get companies and users to pay multiple times for the same content, and use that to suggest this must be illegal, even though DISH has a retransmission license and all the individual parts are legal. I honestly don’t understand this argument — they’re just claiming that because they don’t like how end users engage with otherwise legal content, it must be illegal. Fox even uses this to claim that DISH’s offering is not “enhancing consumer choice.” Apparently, in the minds of TV network lawyers, what counts as “consumer choice” is limited to what the TV networks want to count as consumer choice… and any other choices are no choices at all. Or something.

There are a few slight differences in the lawsuits. For example, Fox brings up the fact that DISH also offers the Slingbox to allow users to not just time-shift but also place shift, though fails to explain why that’s an issue at all. Fox also includes a breach of contract claim, which also may be difficult to support if all of the other actions prove to be legal.

DISH’s declaratory filing gives you a pretty clear sense of that company’s argument, pointing out that this is a nice feature that consumers want, that this kind of technology is already widely in use, and that it’s not clear how any of this is infringement.

Auto Hop is a more efficient way of achieving what consumers already do with standard DVRs. A 30-second skip feature is already standard on many DVR remote controls. It permits viewers to automatically skip ahead in a recording, at the touch of a button, completely bypassing a typical 30-second television commercial. The remote controls that come with DVRs supplied by Comcast, an NBC affiliate, can be programmed to include this 30-second skip feature. DISH has provided a 30-second skip feature for years. By pressing the 30-second skip button multiple times, a viewer can elect to bypass the full complement of commercials between show segments. Now, DISH allows the customer to opt to use an Auto Hop feature that is just an extension of this 30-second skip function. It avoids the common frustration that occurs when viewers, using the 30-second skip or plain fast-forwarding, overshoot the commercials and fastforward into the television programming content that they really want to watch.

DISH also points out that skipping commercials is not illegal:

DISH’s Auto Hop feature promotes consumer autonomy. Viewers have skipped commercials for decades. Viewers commonly use the commercial break as a time to get up and momentarily leave the room. Ever since the advent of the remote control, viewers have changed channels or muted the sound during commercial breaks. And, since the advent of the VCR and DVR, viewers playing back a show have fast-forwarded through commercials. DISH is simply making it easier for viewers to refuse to be a captive audience and to exercise the well-accepted choice to skip a commercial.

I can’t see how the networks’ argument can stand very much legal scrutiny at all — but stranger things have happened when copyright cases hit the court. Still, the arguments here are so bizarre, and so unsupportable, you have to believe a judge will reject them quickly.

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Companies: cbs, dish networks, fox, nbc universal

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Comments on “TV Networks File Legal Claims Saying Skipping Commercials Is Copyright Infringement”

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Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling (profile) says:

Re: Great question....but

That’s ignorance that could work in our favor.

1) Agree that skipping commercials is copyright infringement.

2) Write petitions to government demanding tough laws.

3) ???????

4) Profit!

People will say WTF….
“”I am criminal for not watching ads””
“”There is something wrong with copyright””

This is the best anti-anti-copyright plan I have seen in a while.

Let’s make this crazy law happen.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Great question....but

Though you forget that if you DO watch the ads by copying them you are still, in the idiotic eyes of these dumb attorneys that the USA seems to ooze out of their esteemed law schools (sarcasm meters just blew up everywhere), committing copyright infringement. Even though the actual networks don’t actually own these copyrights on the advertisements in the first place (the advertisers instead do – see Righthaven) so no matter what the idiocy of the attorneys is dumber than a box of rocks (apologies to any rocks out their for lumping you with these morons)

Btw excellent avatar and handle ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anonymous Coward of Esteemed Trolling says:

Re: Re: Re: True.....But


then you also have the argument of the opposite…
“O.K to pirate if you keep in the adverts.”
“Your rules Copyright Trolls , U mad ?”

2.)::Remember the lulzyness of making good folks watch adverts

We can force kids to watch embarrassing penis enlargement adverts with their parents.

Win and win = Epic Win !

Btw…Thanks for that handle G-T , will try to do it justice.

Anonymous Coward With A Unique Writing Style says:

All I’m gathering from this foolish venture is that they now seek to make what is currently legal and common/accepted practice (avoiding commercials) illegal. To me this shows just how ridiculous these people are. The fact of the matter is now they’re trying to tell us how we can watch television that we’re already paying for, and I say this as a DISH Network subscriber who has multiple DVR boxes in the home and routinely fast forwards through the commercials (as do the rest of the people in my household). I mean “geez” and “wtf” do not even begin to cover my first reactions to this.

And they wonder why some people turn to piracy. “Because you’re acting like a d*ck! And treating your customers as criminals or as criminals in the making, even the ones who are clearly not. Not to mention you are now trying to tell them what they can do, when they can do it, how they can do it and so on so forth. Basically, you’re acting like an egomaniacal control freak.”

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And they wonder why some people turn to piracy. “Because you’re acting like a d*ck! And treating everyone as criminals or as criminals in the making, even the ones who are clearly not. Not to mention you are now trying to tell them what they can do, when they can do it, how they can do it and so on so forth. Basically, you’re acting like an egomaniacal control freak.”

Fixed for you.

Gene Poole says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward With A Unique Writing Style on May 25th, 2012 @ 6:57am

Next step will be forcing everyone with a TV subscription to watch TV when they’re home. “If you’re subscribing and you’re not watching the commercials you’re infringing our copyright!” Consumers strapped into their chairs a la Clockwork Orange, eyes pulled open to force Two Broke Girls upon them. Oh the humanity!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

When I want to watch commercials I go to Youtube. But how do I figure out what adds are worth watching? Someone has to let me know that there are good ones worth watching.

If the content providers could improve the signal to noise ratio on on TV, then I would not have to wade through over 30 minutes per hour of crap programming just to see if there are any good adds playing. And usually there aren’t any good adds that I have not seen so the whole effort is in vain.

PT says:

Re: About "consumer choice"...

‘”consumer choice” isn’t about what consumers choose, it’s about which consumers THE NETWORKS choose to serve.’

That’s so obviously correct, it’s a surprise it needs to be stated. Viewers are not the customer, they’re the PRODUCT. They’re consumers in the same sense as livestock on a feedlot.

Justin (profile) says:

I look at it this way, I don’t watch your crap now because I don’t want to sit through 10 min of commercials to see a 20 min show. so either I will watch your shows later when they don’t take up as much time, or I am just not going to watch them and forget about you. I guess you really want me to forget about you. I’m OK with that.

pixelpusher220 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Even more stupid, I don’t intend to watch tomorrow, I intend to watch today…I just start 10 minutes into the show so I can skip the commercials and still end up at the same place.

Yet according to them that would not be infringement because it’s ‘same day’. *headdesk*

As soon as timeshifting is legal, and it is, what I do with that timeshifted signal is up to me, it’s ‘mine’ (not the copyright, but the use)

Anonymous Coward says:

Soon they’ll declare that having a remote or even buttons on your tv is illegal because it allows you to change channels during commercials and skip them.

Later they’ll rule out that turning off or unplugging your tv is crime.

And finally they’ll rename your tv sets, their new name shall be telescreens.

Old hat says:

Re: Re:

No. You also can’t mute the audio and feed your dog. And, if the pixelated spy camera on your HD set catches you dozing off (with your eyes closed), they will send you a fine in the mail and harass your parrot, but only on the second Tuesday of every other month, so that’s not so bad.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You are an idiot.
I pay for the cable service, the TV, the DVR, the electricity.
I will make decisions on what I am willing to show in my home.
And, BTW – Many commercials are far more offensive than the shows on today.

Take that Entertainment Lobby Probe out of your @$$ and listen to what the consumers are saying. No matter how you get your Shill pay, once people dump the networks (Cord cutting is becoming more common.), your paycheck will get smaller and smaller.

And that is what you get for not paying attention to your customers.

TasMot (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And look, this AC is wasting his time reading this article, wasting our time complaining about Mike, makes snide allegations about incomplete reporting, and YET has NOT added any backup to his complaint. Where is your “not one sided” analysis. Where is your “more convenient” facts to back up these allegations. OH WAIT, instead of believing Mike, we need to take this ACs UNVERIFIED and unsupported (without any facts or references) accusations that Mike is wrong.

What is wrong with this picture. Please stop the obnoxious rant and support your side with your more convenient facts, a balanced analysis and some supporting references. OR, JUST SHUT UP AND GO BACK INTO YOUR ANGRY HOLE IN THE GROUND.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

LOL! Really? Mike would say this lawsuit is a loser no matter what the facts or the law because Mike works backwards. Every single thing Mike says about a copyright case is dripping with lies, bias, and prejudice. He couldn’t be honest about a case like this if his life depended on it. But, yeah, keep believing what Mike says. He’d never lie to his readers and fans.

Trails (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

LOL! Really? You would that Mike is biased no matter what the facts or the law or the fire or the chain because you work backwards. Every single thing you say about Mike is dripping with lies, bias, and prejudice, and superfluous commas. You couldn’t be honest about Mike if your life depended on it. But, yeah, keep dead agenting for your paymasters. As long as there’s the appearance of real debate…

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Oh look you’re now trying to state that you care about facts or even the law, though I’m glad you at least know the distinction.

Maybe you should actually debate the facts, or even the law (even at a laypersons level).. but sadly you don’t want to debate anything well other than the masturbating you do over your snide comments and fallacious imaginings of conspiracies.

Personally I think you are infatuated with Mike and are jealous of the attention that Techdirt is getting. Either that or somehow you see a perceived threat against some sort of power you imagine you hold sway over and are fighting against the overwhelming tide of entropy that is heading your way.

Whatever it is it’s sad and worrisome.. have you considered Cognitive Therapy and say some classes on Ethics, social dynamics or even “why feudalism is not the answer in the 21st century”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“extremely shallow…one-sided…ignores inconvenient facts”

I know that this won’t carry much weight, coming from and AC, and I know for sure that you’ll be too much of a wuss to come back and answer but I challenge you to prove your claims.

Prove to us that you aren’t just a luser that likes to piss on comment boards.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Instead of clicking report on your dribble I instead clicked funny!

Why you ask?

Well it comes back to the difference between a comedy and a tragedy. A tragedy is when I make a fool/idiot of myself whereas a comedy is where you do.

What would be an even better comedy is for you to seriously consider winning this years Darwin Award. Now that’s comedy at its best.

Anonymous Coward says:

wouldn’t be surprised to see the Betamax ruling overturned. the entertainment industries have managed to get everything they ever wanted into law by using one means or another. cant see them failing now.

wonder whether copyright infringement charges would be filed if a person recorded shows but skipped everything except the adverts?

what would happen if a person actually, physically, used a fast forward button after recording something? the adverts would still be skipped, so is that infringement?

i was of the opinion that i made the choice of what i wanted to watch, not them so when will the entertainment industries be forcing people to record all channels and watch them as well as what they want? when are people supposed to watch all these recorded channels and programs?

when the hell is someone gonna have the balls to tell the entertainment industries to fuck off, grow up and stop trying to dictate who can do what, with what and when?

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re:

wouldn’t be surprised to see the Betamax ruling overturned. the entertainment industries have managed to get everything they ever wanted into law by using one means or another. cant see them failing now.

This would be *great*. Think of the mad dash to piracy that would occur. People are already used to being able to timeshift, if suddenly they are no longer allowed to do so legally, they wouldn’t rearrange their schedules to make time for the show; they would pirate, or not watch.

It would be delicious to watch.

Anonymous Coward says:

Makes Me Wonder...

I’ve seen commercials posted on YouTube by people that may think the commercial is funny or entertaining…whatever. My question is: have any of these commercials received a take-down notice, or is it okay to “pirate” as long as it is a commercial that is being “pirated “.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Makes Me Wonder...

I don’t know about others, but Heineken’s commercials – which are pretty funny and interestin – are taken down every now and then.

I don’t think by it’s by Heineken though, it seems it’s either by studio who did the campaing or the record label that owns the right for the song licensed for the ad.

Anonymous Coward says:

English is not my native language (Dutch is) but:
Isn’t the definition of copyright infringement not something like copying something without permission of the copyrights-holder?
By recording a tv-show with ads is copying and the betamax ruling stated that that should be allowed so the copy is already made.
How the hell can opting not to watch the ads be infringing?

Anonymous Coward says:

This will pass. Then they will have what they want. Everyone is infringing. I mean, I can’t possibly watch a commercial on fox and nbc at the same time, much less every other channel as well. So if I am watching a fox commercial, I am infringing on nbcs’ copyright.

Just another step towards taxing your paycheck.
The Ahole tax. Artists, helpers, overlords, leeches & executives tax.

Anomaly Coward says:


I think something worth noting here, right or wrong, is that we (the viewer) are not the major networks’ direct customer, the advertisers are. Advertisers are the ones paying for everything. They pay the major networks just so they can reach whatever their target demographic of viewers might happen to be. TV programming lives and dies by what ratings they get, because that rating directly translates to the advertising revenue that is brought in.

The people who are most upset with this feature would obviously be the advertisers whose commercials are getting skipped. A play like this on behalf of the major networks, as foolish or futile as it may be, probably goes a long way to at least appease the rising frustrations of their main customers.

The TV landscape is going to have to change eventually to adapt to the new technologies of the day, but we won’t see a major change until either the networks find a completely new way to monetize their programming or until the advertisers find a new strategy for advertising through TV. Until this change, desperate gestures like this are bound to continue.

Pro Se (profile) says:

Re: Excuses

You raise a valid point that generally gets lost in the “noise”. Broadcast television currently depends largely on either consumer subscriptions or advertising revenues. When you start screwing around with the latter, then of course objections will arise, which are always fertile ground for litigation.

Turning now to the Betamax Case, it has largely disappeared from the legal scene. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the case turned upon the legitimacy of hardware, and the court held 5-4 that things were fine so long as the hardware was suitable for a substantial non-infringing use.

To explore what could comprise non-infringing uses, the court majority started racking-up various scenarios that would likely qualify. One of them, of course, was “time-shifting”. Now, it has been repeated ad nauseum that “time-shifting is perfectly legal”. In truth, this is not exactly what the court actually held. As an appellate court, the Supreme Court was bound by the factual record established by the trial court. In the case of “time-shifting”, Fair Use was examined and it was determined that under the facts before the court the plaintiff’s, Universal and its cohorts, did not present evidence sufficient to overcome fair use. Importantly, this is not a holding that “time-shifting” is legal in all circumstances, but only that given the then facts the plaintiff’s fell short of the mark defeating the defense.

Where this case begins to depart from this part of the Universal v. Sony decision is that by enabling the “skip commerical” feature, Dish Network may have changed the fair use dynamics. Would this be enough for the broadcasters to prevail? While a longshot, the answer is “maybe it would”, in which case a decision could come out that would distinguish the present case from Universal v. Sony.

I cannot begin to emphasize enough just how important it was that the factual record from the original trial did not work to Universal et. al.’s favor. They had to present proof of how they were being harmed, and the court held their proof was lacking. Here the facts are a bit different. By “skipping commercials” the broadcasters may have very well had a new arrow added to their quiver sufficient to demonstrate financial harm. Again, a longshot, but a significant factual distinction.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excuses

You bring up an interesting point. However, I must ask this:

Is skipping commercials entirely that much different from fast forwarding through them? Sure when you fast forward you catch fleeting glimpses of commercials, but you are not really taking anything in as your mind is focused on finding the show again.

Since Fast forwarding has existed along side time shifting for the entire time it has been deemed fair use, do you really think that the Supreme court would decide that now fast forwarding has gone too far? I find that unlikely.

However, in the off chance that it does happen, I can easily see a huge backlash by the viewing public. A public that has over the last 30+ years become accustomed to recording shows and fast forwarding through commercials. They will not take lightly the loss of that ability.

E. Zachary Knight (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Excuses

I will ad this. I am not against all advertising. I am against intrusive advertising. I hate website ads that pop over the content I am trying to view. I am against ads that play music or sounds without my authorization.

On TV, I am just plain tired of commercial breaks that have grown longer and louder over the years.

There are ways for tv shows and television networks to make money from advertising. It is just that the nature of advertising is changing and changing rapidly. They can fight that change like they are now, or they can adapt (ooh there is that word we use constantly here on Techdirt) to that change and find new ways to make money that meet the needs of the viewers.

fairusefriendly (profile) says:

Re: Re: Excuses

except the financial harm arguement doesn’t exist unless you ignore reality.

Advertisers don’t pay for timeshifted ad runs. If you were to record your favorite show with a non commercial skipping vcr the advertiser would not pay for that ad viewing irregardless if you were a good boy and sat thru every commercial or if you simply hit the fast forward button.

So the economic loss is zero when compared to the fair use alternative that this product is designed to replace.

It only when you falsely allocate those views to non stubstitute (watching the show live) that you get a false economic loss.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Excuses

Your missing the fact that most tv now is subscriber based. Tv networks have been trying to end broadcasting over the air (free) channels and what is left of free tv has been severly downgraded.

The saddest part of all this is that more money is poured into the production of commercials than the actual tv show. It doesn’t say a whole lot when viewers want to skip the most expensive part of the show.

Execs would probably be better off if they focused on getting viewers to even pay attention to tv since they’ve lost the last 2 generations of viewers (same with RIAA). Their real enemy is doing “anything else”.

Anomaly Coward says:

Re: Re: Excuses

I am not missing this fact. In this particular case, we’re talking major networks. Unlike cable channels, they do not rely on subscriber fees. They rely much more heavily on advertiser funding.

Also, getting viewers to “pay attention” to TV, isn’t really the issue networks are facing. The problem is they can’t get people to watch tv “live” anymore, which is what the advertisers care the most about. If a TV show gets a huge time-shifted DVR viewing or significant online views, it doesn’t help keep a show on the air. Major networks can’t sell that data to the people who pay to advertise during the show. They wouldn’t want to pay to put their commercial in a spot everyone is skipping.

Overall live viewership is dropping every year, but as long as advertisers keep paying top dollar for their advertisement slots, the major networks have no incentive to change.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Excuses

I am not missing this fact. In this particular case, we’re talking major networks. Unlike cable channels, they do not rely on subscriber fees. They rely much more heavily on advertiser funding.

But we are talking about DISH network, which has to pay carriage fee for retransmission of major networks. Therefore, DISH customers are already paying for these networks regardless to whether the networks rely on a subscription fee or advertiser funding.

Jack Furlong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Excuses

Advertisers like to see ratings data as soon as possible. DVRs mess with the immediacy of that data, and this upsets them. This also messes with how networks can set pricing for ads. See

Anything the networks can do to discourage DVR use makes them friends among advertisers.

Joe Blow says:

Re: If skipping TV commercials is theft...

Firefox also has a plugin that lets you save YouTube videos and many other video formats to your computer. (Ant Video player I belive is the name) I think it also takes out the advertising videos that play beforehand.

So I can copy these videos to my hard drive and other portable devices and play them anytime I want which is nice when I don’t have an internet connection.

Now if I were to download all the YouTube videos of commercials and played them over and over again, that’s infrignement too right?

Anonymous Coward With A Unique Writing Style says:

Re: A new first

I’m just waiting for the obligatory “entertainment” tax to be imposed on us by the government at the behest of the entertainment industries (specifically the movie studios and record labels).

And EVEN THEN I wouldn’t be surprised if they still bitched about piracy and illegal commercial avoidance and lost revenues despite record breaking profits for the year and technology still advancing despite all efforts to curtail it and so on.

That’s in addition to us and the ISPs and everyone else footing the bill for piracy enforcement measures that still won’t work, because fixing your own problem just isn’t how things are supposed to be done.

Anonymous Coward With A Unique Writing Style says:

Re: Re: Re: A new first

Yeah, there is an entertainment tax on blank DVD’s and CD’s, but only in some countries. At the moment there isn’t one in the U.S. as far as I’m aware. Although that will be rectified soon enough if the entertainment industries keep having their way, which seems to be something that’ll keep happening til enough people get pissed and put them in their place. Sooner or later that will happen.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 A new first

There is, actually:

Yeah, the reason why most people avoid “Music CDs”. There is no fundamental difference between music CDs and other CDs, but you pay an additional tax on music CDs that you don’t pay on other CDs. I had a friend who once bought Music CDs for everything, including backing up his own documents off of a hard drive. He didn’t like MP3s, because he had a golden ear and preferred listening to music on vinyl. He told me that music CDs were supposed to be higher quality than regular CDs, because they charged more for them, and that is why he used them.

Joe Blow says:

Re: Re-title that

“not watching” sounds too much like “not making any money” but the thought is good.

How about “protecting the children”

Viewers can now invoke the new child protection button on their remote to prevent hearing loss suffered by children who have more fragile ears. This child protection button maintains consistent audio levels while enjoying your favorite programs.

Of course adults are f$#%ed but really, it’s all about the children.

Brent (profile) says:

I can see exactly where this is going. Once the networks buy off a judge or 50 and these lawsuits are not only make it to court but go in favor the networks, it will be illegal for anyone to skip commercials, ever. This means that like Hulu and March Madness on the web, whenever commercials come on your tv, not only will you not be able to pause, mute, or change the channel, but you will also not be able to turn the TV off. In fact, even though that law passed making it illegal for commercials to be louder than the tv show itself (which i swear still happens), commercials will now turn up the tv to be the loudest thing in the room (after analyzing current room volume of course). In a few years, your TV may even be required to turn itself on to play commercials for any shows you have ever recorded on your DVR b/c otherwise you’re infringing. Heck, lets go 5 years down the road when Google Glass is mainstream and you can watch shows right on that little thing. When that happens, you will have to stop moving, stop talking, stop listening to any real people, and close the eye that’s not watching the Glass screen just to watch commercials or you’ll be arrested within 30 seconds. Heck, by then, it will be infringement if you don’t watch any tv at all in a single day b/c you haven’t seen any commercials (Not cool bro!). Every 15 minutes in real life will be mandatory commercial break time for the entire country (soon the world!).

Jack Furlong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Online streaming video sites that include commercials already disable FF & RW controls during the commercials.

Since so many people now have cameras attached to their TVs (kinect, etc) I can easily see a time in the future when if you leave the room or don’t pay attention to the commercials, playback will pause until you _DO_ pay attention.

And if you try to get around this somehow, the media you WANT to watch simply won’t be displayed at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

To all good american citizens who own a dvr, you are now considered a criminal in tv networks’ eyes

I dont care if you bought it before you knew

I dont care if its not hurting anyone, its hurting our business

How dare you, business is more important then air, …….. insert typical character slander

jason says:

how bout i file a law suit against the broadcasting companies claiming commercials are merely brainwashing and propaganda…which is illegal. so basically, what theyre saying, is that we are supposed to be forced to watch commercials so we buy the products they show during their television shows…or perhaps companies are taking a new direction in advertising…which is cutting the prices networks charge for commercials cuz no one watches them. sorry all your youtube and google advertisements try to brainwash me enough already…someone should just bring in a copy of Clock Work Orange and the play the scene with him strapped into a chair with his eye lids peeled back…forced to watch whatever bullshit they throw in his face all day until it becomes embedded in his mind.

Amber (profile) says:

So let me get this straight...

If I *don’t* watch something, I’m infringing on a copyright? If I *exclude* something, I’m infringing on a copyright? But, if I were to purposely get a copy of the commercial and post it on my website, wouldn’t *that* be a copyright infringement? Now I’m infringing if I don’t? I thought copyright was for *watching* something without the ok of the “owner” of the content? Now it’s for *not* watching it?

I’m confused.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

In Related News...

…a recent article in The New York Times noted the passing of Eugene Polley, who invented the world’s first remote control in 1955. Of interest in the article:

?Just think!,? an advertisement breathlessly proclaimed that year. ?Without budging from your easy chair you can turn your new Zenith Flash-Matic set on, off, or change channels. You can even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen.?

Imagine that – an advertisement promoting a way to avoid other advertisements.

fairusefriendly (profile) says:

Re: Re:

except that statement is a lie

Jack Valenti complained about commercial skipping when he testified to congress.

“Now, what does that mean, Mr. Chairman? It means that when you are playing back a recording, which you made 2 days or whenever — you are playing it back. You are sitting in your home in your easy chair and here comes the commercial and it is right in the middle of a Clint Eastwood film and you don’t want to be interrupted. So, what do you do? You pop this beta scan and a 1-minute commercial disappears in 2 seconds.”

crade (profile) says:

I would think there would be a good case for drm circumvention, certainly the maker’s intent was to prevent commercial skipping using technology, and they are getting around that by recording and allowing users to fast forward or by auto blocking or whatever. There is no requirement for infringement or wrongdoing of any kind to be guilty of circumventing drm.

Digitari says:


so, the next step is you will have people coming into your home to have the “live commercial hour” ya know like carolers during Holidays.

the will come in the evenings and do live ads that are paid for buy TV advertising

(hey, maybe I just came up with a new business model and help for the jobless, I can get government grants AND money from advertisers)TM ?

anon says:


Well i say just get rid of dish and download, it is easy and much much cheaper and not only do you get a really good copy but you can watch it whenever you want on almost any device in your house or car, you can watch it in a week 6 weeks or even a year, especially when it can sometimes take a year for them to show a 22 part show.

Rekrul says:

They’re lucky I’m not in charge of designing such features, because with today’s computing power, I can think of a mechanism for finding the start and end of commercial breaks in a DVR recording that would yield pretty good accuracy for skipping the entire break. This way the show would flow seamlessly with only a very short pause where the commercials would be. It would require programming some logic into the DVR, but I’m pretty sure that it would work on virtually every channel that carries commercials.

Gee, maybe I should patent my idea and then I can sue the DVR makers if they ever come up with the same idea…

Renee Marie Jones says:

Copyright abuse

This sort of copyright abuse by “rights holders” is all too common, and is just getting worse and worse. The only answer is to outlaw copyrights altogether, or at least place severe penalties on corporations that abuse copyrights in this way. The penalties for this sort of abuse need to be as severe in comparison to a corporations revenue as the $150,000 penalty that they demand for a single infringement is to a normal person.

Unknown Scardy Cat says:

I’ve been saying for a while now that it’s only a matter of time until they start playing ads at the same time the show is playing. I know they’ve actually been doing it for a while now with station identifiers and what show is coming on later, but today was the first time I ever saw a real (totally distracting) ad play while I was watching a show. It was for a breakfast cereal and it played in the lower left. This kind of thing is going to get a lot worse very soon from the looks of things.

I find myself wondering often these days what the heck is in our food/air/water. The human race seems to be getting dumber year after year. For instance every single time I go through the fast food drive through they get my order wrong. Just trying to make an order has become a teeth grinding experience these days. Anyways over the past decade we’ve seen a lot of awesome shows get canceled, usually replaced by yet another boring reality show. This story is just more proof they’ve all lost their frakking minds. I may just cancel my cable subscription if things get bad enough. After all I can always download the DVDrip at a later date and then buy it if it’s any good… unless they decide to play unskipable ads on those too. Never say never (or underestimate the power of stupid).

MLC (profile) says:

From as early as I can remember watching TV, I have always thought commercials were incredibly annoying. And with the advent of all these disgusting pharmaceutical commercials telling you that you have a really good chance of dying or being maimed if you use these “wonderfully innovative” drugs. There are more reasons than ever to avoid commercials. This lawsuit has to backfire on these fools who filed it.

EngineerScotty says:

At least they can make a GOOD argument

Or at least try.

How about this one: Stripping the commercials on playback creates a “derived work”, one which isn’t fair use, because the whole point of doing so is not viewing is to bypass the means by which content is paid for.

True, it’s not a good argument either, but it’s better than trying to retry the Betamax case.

Jambalaya Bob says:

It’s really not so much that they don’t know their suits make barely any sense with already established law, it’s more that they are just once again attempting to make recording television unlawful. They have done this every single time a new technology for recording TV shows has become available, and they’re not gonna stop.

The reason they do this is generally because they’re afraid that advertisers will start paying them less money when their ads are theoretically being watched way less. Of course, the vast majority of people have been and will continue watching live broadcast content in addition to recorded content. Things like this just understandably make huge corporations nervous.

Drew2 says:

How about not watching tv full stop , screw these propaganda spreading vile extortionist .

Sick of the tv license in the uk, sick of the utter crap the broadcasters push onto the airwaves .

I’ll watch what I want to watch, when I feel like watching it , even if it’s an illegal download I don’t care, screw the so called entertainments industry.

Waiting for license man to come round so I can give him a piece of my mind, I’m so sick to death with being told what the hell I can/can’t watch.
Stuff the bbc , bunch of crooks alongside all the others.

An unrepentant adskipper says:

Well from now on if it’s illegal to skip ads, I’ll let them play from now on and go off to make a cup of tea/visit the loo/sort the washing/while they’re on. Unless they force my eyes open, gag me, and tie me to my sofa, they can’t make me watch or listen to anything I don’t wanna!

Part of me might really enjoy the being tied to my sofa part, though not for the reasons they’d expect…

fairusefriendly (profile) says:

if skipping commercials is a copyright infringement
does that mean taking down a site and therefore blocking distribution of content that want to be distributed by the site also a copyright infringement.

And if that is the case, doesn’t that mean that the US government is guilty of willful infringement for taking the mega upload domain down.

Is BEIN similar guilty for demand domain blocking of the pirate bay.

Xenobyte (profile) says:

Double standard are twice as good!

So they want to sue DISH Networks because their Auto Hopper changes the broadcast as delivered by the TV networks because they hold a defacto copyright on that, and the new technology violates it, but they have no qualms chopping the tv-shows up into little pieces (even worse when it comes to movies), overlaying the image with huge animated and highly disturbing ads for other shows, speaking over theme songs and so on?

They have no problems shredding others copyrights to pieces and yet they want everybody else to respect theirs?

Go figure!

Anonymous Coward says:

Internet added 'reliable metrics' to advertising.... suddenly the network 'lies' weren't so appealing.....

I think the real issue here is that the internet and increased communication has added reliable and realistic metrics to advertising in many cases…..

Which makes the network ‘promises’ of just give us the money and we’ll make sure LOTS AND LOTS of people see your ads… see here is our self created survey system (nielsons?) that show that the consumers we are paying to watch TV are seeing your ads…. Now for only $250,000 we’ll include your commercials in next seasons show, we can count on your advertising support, right?

As opposed to (arbitrary figures for example purposes, not based in reality), your purchased Keyword ad on your 19.95 product was clicked on 154,268 times in the last month, with an average estimated click-thru purchase rate of 35%, we project that this ad generated an estimated $1 million dollars while costing you .25 per click or roughly $40 thousand dollars.

Guess what, companies looking to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising may actually want to know WHAT they are paying for… TV Networks can’t provide that information other than in ‘statistical sampling of selected family homes’ (aka, numbers we paid people to tell us) types of figures…. They can’t say with any reliability how many people saw the commercial you put on prime time at 8:35 last night, or how many of those people were interested enough to ‘click thru’ the ad to get more info, or how many were even in the room (yet)…

Wait for the rise of TV’s/set top boxes with cameras watching YOU…. they will be welcomed at first as customers are using them for gaming and convenience, but like any slippery slope the changes will come…. commercials will pause when nobody is looking at the screen, as that would be ‘stealing’ from the advertisers (or copyright infringement as claimed in this article)…

Of course I’ll make a killing with my patented, trademarked, copyrighted, product the lifesize ‘couch potato’ which will provide a face and eyes that can always be ‘watching’ the television, preventing the customers from having to sit thru all the commercials themselves. And taking a page from the current companies playbooks, these couch potato’s will not be ‘sold’ they will be ‘licensed for personal home use’ and will charge by the number of commercials they help customers ‘avoid’… which means the potato will have to have enough eyes to watch the rest of the room, so it knows when it’s the only one ‘watching’ the commercials… but I’ll never use the video that’s sent back to the central server for anything other than business use….

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Is Commercial Skipping New?

I have been recording programs and fast forwarding through commercials since I bought my first VCR 30 years ago. In that time I have taped almost everything I watched rarely watched anything off the air. That means for every hour of programing time I have saved about 12 to 16 minutes of wasted time. Ballpark figuring that amounts to up to probably well over a year of my life I have not wasted on their annoying commercials.

Hunter says:

I don?t understand why CBS, FOX, & NBC execs don?t want us to enjoy commercial-free TV. I?m a DISH employee ? AutoHop is great because you can easily watch commercial-free TV. Public Knowledge, a consumer advocacy group, is taking a stand for consumers by creating a petition that tells CBS, FOX, & NBC media to keep their hands out of your living room & DVR. Sign their petition to keep control of how you watch TV

Bob Smith says:

Thanks Hunter for the link, it went ahead and signed the petition. If commercials were entertaining to watch, or had something to offer, I might actually watch them instead of wanting to skip over them. With Dish and Auto Hop, you do still have the option to watch the network recordings with commercials, but it?s the viewer?s choice to watch or skip ads. I first heard about the Auto Hop feature from one of my coworkers at Dish, and when I use my DVR, I skip through commercials anyway and the Auto Hop feature just makes it easier to do just that. When Dish introduced Auto Hop, it was a huge hit with its customers, because customers like to have a choice.

Bill Milburn says:

TV adverts

The electricity used by the advertisers is stolen from the viewer who we can presume in most cases will be billed for it. Most other advertising is at the expense of the advertiser ie. billboards and newspaper placement. TV & radio companies charge for the space & time. Maybe we should find a way to get a return for our overused electricity with product discounts that reflect the usage of electricity not owned by the advertisers.

Rikard Nilsson says:


several times when I’ve been meaning to watch something on a video site I’ve been forced to sit through a commercial in order to see the clip, some times the video ceases to load and I have to reload, watch the commercials again only to find that it ceases loading again and I have to repeat that some 10 more times, can I get reimbursed for lost time please? No? Then STFU about skipping commercials you greedy corporate cunts!

A Baillie says:

In the beginning . . .

In the beginning, we paid for cable because it didn’t HAVE commercials. Now we pay an arm and leg for cable and have NOTHING BUT commmercials. What they should do is, for a 30-min show, run the show for 25 mins uninterrupted, and then run 5 mins of commercials at the very end. Better yet, get rid of ALL commercials, or put them all on ONE channel! ๐Ÿ™‚

izraul says:

Networks have filed a lawsuit against Dish TV for providing The Hopper. They claim it is illegal for anyone to bypass commercials. lol They are using our (property of the public) airwaves to over charge us for their advertising and bullshit tv then have the nerve to file a bullshit lawsuit claiming we dont have the right to decide what we watch on top of that.

If you dont understand the logic then search around to see how much it costs to advertise for us. It damn sure aint free and you damn sure cant force charge anyone else for it. Especially using something that belongs to them.. Yet corporations are supposed to be people. So why dont we the people have those same bullshit rights?

Jamie Jacobson (user link) says:

iPhone app for skipping commercials

I, like many of you hate (most) commercials. ? Some are genius and crack me up, but most of the time it’s a world of pain.

I decided to combat advertisers head-on and stop this torture. A friend and I created an iPhone app so we won’t have to watch commercials at will.

it’s called, … ?wait for it … ? ? ? ?”Commercial Break” ?:)

The idea is simple. You launch the app and select the channel you’re watching. Then when commercial start running, you can zap the TV to a different channel and watch something else. (This is what I usually do when commercials come on). ?So how do you know when your program is back from the break ? ?The app sends you a notification! ??
Then all you have to do is change back to your program, ?and BOOM, no commercials.

The app is free and ad-free, and we hope to keep it that way for as long as we can fund this project.

We currently support CBS,NBC,ABC and FOX in New York, and ESPN and CNN nation wide, and working on adding more channels.

I’d love to get your feedback and will do my best to add any features and channels you request.

you can download the app for free here:?

feel free to contact me directly at


– Jamie

Joob says:

Question is all the people against time shifting or against skipping commercials, do they themselves skip their own commercials? I wonder how many ad makers actually watch, click, view ads themselves. I love how hypocritical our society has become.

And what about netflix they dont show commercials but still have the shows and isn’t that by their definition still copyright? (in all reality i know its not but by their definition it would seem thats their view.)

Its a good thing i dont watch normal tv anymore, i refuse to give them the time of day.

Rich Kilchrist says:

repeat ads

isn’t illegal to brain wash or put subliminal ads into tv programs? If anyone says that being subjected to the same identical ad during a program or programs on the same network called? for example I already pay for cable tv, so why am i paying to see the same ad 3 – 4 dozen times in 4 hours of viewing? it’s so bad that children of 2-5 years old can sing or hum the tunes of these ads. This age group has no buying, purchasing, or dicession making authority for products, but are being brain washed none the less. I have to change channels all during the program only to find almost all channels are timed to air ads at the same time. Why can’t i determine what my family is being exposed to. How much money do i have to pay tp get total ad free tv that im payng for already?

madashel (profile) says:


I absolutely despise commercials,I will turn the channel even at the expense of missing the show I want to watch,and I refuse to buy a product that interrupts my shows.
TV used to be free,and I can see back then using commercials to make money, but that is assuming that commercials actually create income,Imagine the money they could save if they didn’t pay millions in advertising,the price of products we buy includes advertising,so in reality,we pay for the ads we see by paying higher prices for products.
Maybe if actors and directors and producers… that make TV shows and movies didn’t make so much money…Hmm, No, wouldn’t matter because it comes down to greed.
Buy a box of cereal,price goes up ,box gets bigger, but they put less in it, buyer beware and screw the consumer.
I payed for my TV, I pay my cable bill,I pay the electricity,and the truth is we all are being screwed because very,very few people want to pay their cable bill just for commercials, we are force fed advertising and we pay to see them,not only do we have 5 commercial breaks an hour, but they now have commercials on the screen during our programming.I will be glad when someone with enough clout and power is able to convince the courts that copyright laws are a joke,you write a song, get a copyright,I can write the same song change a couple of words and a couple of notes and I can get a copyright also,its all a big scam to cheat consumers out of their money.

Peter Styles says:


It is the unflinching ability of the advertisers to flood the airwaves, and thereby the scheduled programing with enough advertising to cause the viewers to become frustrated with the networks that makes the action of Direct TV a viable product with enough customers to be an unavoidable product.

When I want to watch a movie, I want to maintain the rhythm and interest of the program. I don’t want it disrupted by
10 minutes of commercials (witness much’s presentation of Be Cool today, in which the entire program was halted at one point for just such purpose, including the same commercial twice in one period). Is there any question that abuse of the right of advertising is the reason for the existence of companies such as Dish TV with their commercial skipping ability?

Anonymous Coward says:

Total BS

This is just hilarious. I don’t dish out thousands of dollars of my hard earned money to watch commercials… I pay to watch what I want, when I want. FU tv networks. This is the main reason why TCM is basically the only channel I watch… no commercials. If you force me to watch commercials I will simply pirate my shows and movies. Suck on that media pricks.

Mark says:

Buggy whips and other outdated business models

Why is it the rich Hollywood liberal elite seem to be so delusional in their claims?

Why not change their business model?

If they want me to watch their crap commercials contract with me to not delete them, fast forward through them and not watch them.

Their contractual claim as it is for the people in their distribution chain is to deliver that content to the viewer.

Their contract doesn’t involve me.

If it is provided to me and I choose not to watch it that is my choice.

If I’m reading a book and I decide to skip pages have I committed copyright infringement?


If I cut pages out of my copy so that I can skip them from that point forward have I committed copy right infringement?


If I’m doing research and I only copy certain pages of a copyrighted publication for research have I committed copyright infringement?


I can go on but that is the succinct argument.

As long as I’m not repackaging their copyrighted product to distribute and sell to others its not copyright infringement.

If a company sells me a device that resides in an area that I exercise care, custody and control over and viewing is restricted as per the fair use copyright doctrine and I cause such a device to remove the commercials I am within the fair use guidelines.

If they want me to watch the commercials cut a contract with me as a first party where I agree to watch the commercials and they actually pay me (no dufus network executives “free TV” is not paying me) put real money in my pocket.

Your business model worked great when technology wasn’t available to enable this.

However, you are victims of adopting a business model that eventually was going to be defeated.

I’m sick and tired of these liberals bashing everyone else and trying to use the courts to get rich.

If their shows are great like the XFiles, Mash etc they could charge for a commercial free stream and if its a show that I like and consider it worth the money I’d pay for it.

The problem is the shows are mostly crap and the commercials are drivel ad infinitum ad nauseam.

Ever notice that the super bowl ads are watched and enjoyed?

Remember the e-trade ads with the baby?

There are some ads worth watching.

An ad during primetime for products for women’s private parts that’s offensive.

If you want me to watch your crappy commercials give me hazardous duty pay other wise shut the F up and change your business model.

Advertisers either improve your commercials to make them worth watching to me not you.

Networks make the shows good enough that I’m willing to pay for an ad free feed.

Or realize that some Chinese company immune and protected from your lawsuits will come up with a device that is placed in the HDMI cable chain between the TV and the cable box or DVR that will automatically remove your commercials for us.

If it is sold for 100 over the internet, can get updates over the internet to enable it to cope with the new schemes to force us to watch commercials it becomes beggar they neighbor.

The average schlep to cheap to buy this will have to watch the commercials for the rest of us.

Now here’s what I have to say F*** the TV networks, their executives, their advertisers, their lobbyist and their attorneys.

Robert says:


For Networks to even bring such cases to court is the fact that they know people don’t like sitting through their commercials, i know I don’t I can care less about their commercials or their sponsors. Some shows end up having commercial breaks every 5 mins which is crazy. F the Networks if I don’t want the commercial then that’s to bad for them. But thanks to warez I can download my shows and their NO commercials in them they are already taken out for me.

Dave says:

Double dipping

All of the stations are double dipping. When cable first came out we paid to watch add free right? So why are they making us pay to watch these stations ,when they should be free. Just like abc cbs and NBC. We are getting the shaft big time. IT’S CALLED DOUBLE DIPPING THEY ARE STEALING OUR MONEY. They snuck in the adds because there greedy.
And we are stupid for letting them do it.

Chris (profile) says:

Double dipping

Your Absolutely Correct Dave, In the old days before cable tv… tv was free. How was it paid for? Commercials. Now a days, you pay for the tv service and channels. Even ABC, NBC and CBS charge the cable companies for broadcasting it over their networks. THEN in turn, they force you to watch their programming, to simply ask for your favorite channels and get a reasonable price to customize your viewing preferences is basically non existent with cable companies or any kind of service like it that charges for free and cable exclusive channels. Now with cable exclusive channels, They show commercials too, so they do double dip, and triple dip, they charge the cable company for the channel which they charge you for (i imagine they charge more than they pay to get it on their network per account) and then your paying too in 2 ways, money wise for the channel and service, and also with your time having to watch the commercial. They should be paying me or giving me a discount for having to watch commercials on a cable exclusive channel! The Attorneys in the lawsuits against Dish Network have absolutely NO leg to stand on with those particulars being brought to light. Also, I am disabled, I am up a lot at night, there’s nothing but PAID PROGRAMMING, wait a second, paid to and by whom?? I’ll tell you paid by me, and by the people that made the commercial TO the cable network. There’s your double Dip!! Because its always on cable exclusive and free TV channels as well. If the free channels did not charge the cable networks a dime to harvest the Public digital TV feed to their networks and pipe it to the customers and the cable tv company did not charge you extra for them channels either, then i would say , as much as i hate them, allow commercials. The network does have to pay for the station somehow and its not cheap either. That’s fine with me and is fair. But if your a channel that is not a free channel and you charge the cable company a lot of money just so they can offer it to their customers, bet yer ass the cable company is gouging us further in higher costs than they are getting it for to make a profit that way too. Just like “franchise fees” What the hell is that crap? Its not a friggen mcdonalds, its a corporation owned by at 3 entities to make it a corporation. There is no franchise…. its a damn monopoly because you really do not have any real choice… its like my other post you can buy any car in russia that you want, you can buy communist model a b or c! see you have a choice! *they think just like communists! Un-Patriotic and criminal imo* So i really don’t give a flying rats ass what others think about me or my opinion on this subject… you ALL know Dave and I speak the truth when we say they double dip. They technically do more than that with all the little fees associated with the service like the franchise fee and such and the other examples i pointed out. I am to the point i am cancelling my TV portion and will stream all of my entertainment and set up a power antenna and rake in the free tv all i want. As far as the lawyers saying infringement, the only infringement is on the consumer rights for lack of quality programming, without commercials and a fair cost for the service in the 1st place. POWER TO THE PEOPLE! Phyck them fat cat corporations!

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