Dish Agrees To Cripple Its Ad-Skipping DVR To Settle Fox Lawsuit

from the negotiating-away-innovation dept

For years now, broadcasters have waged legal war on Dish network for giving consumers what they want: namely a DVR that automatically skips advertisements users weren't watching anyway. Fox, CBS and NBC Universal all sued Dish back in 2012, claiming that the ad-skipping technology embedded in its "Hopper" DVR violated copyright. Most of the lawsuits were packed with hilariously baseless claims, like Fox ignoring the Betamax case to breathlessly insist that merely recording the entire prime time lineup was making "bootleg" copies of Fox's broadcasts.

Disney and CBS' lawsuits were settled in 2014, with Dish agreeing to hamstring Hopper's skipping functionality in exchange for not only an end to legal hostilities, but access to streaming video rights for its Sling TV service. Fox however continued to push its luck in the courts with decidedly mixed results; losing on many of the copyright claims, but winning on a few contractual issues. For example, the courts agreed that Hopper's ability to download recorded content to mobile phones violated contract restrictions against the copying of programming for use outside the home.

With the arrival of 2016, however, comes word that Dish and Fox have finally ended their protracted legal battle. According to the companies' statement, Dish has, as it did with CBS and Disney, agreed to further cripple its DVR's ad-skipping functionality:
"Fox Networks Group and Dish Network L.L.C. have reached an agreement resulting in the dismissal of all pending litigation between the two companies, including disputes over Slingbox technology and the AutoHop, PrimeTime Anytime and Transfers features,” Dish said in the statement. "As part of the settlement, Dish’s AutoHop commercial-skipping functionality will not be available for owned and affiliated Fox stations until seven days after a program first airs.”
Though it's not indicated by the companies' announcement, the settlement likely also involves some broader access to Fox content for use in Dish's Sling TV service, so the deal's probably not a total evolutionary wash. Still, the end result is one of the most popular and innovative DVRs on the market being crippled just to make legacy broadcast executives feel more comfortable as their empires face earth-shaking disruption on every front.

With the exception of Comcast NBC Universal (which, not coincidentally, directly competes with Dish as a cable provider), all of the original 2012 lawsuits have now been put to bed -- but at the cost of innovation and customer satisfaction.

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  1. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 14 Feb 2016 @ 10:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    On the flip side, people skipping the commercials (or, like myself, simply refuse to watch ad-supported TV at all) is just the free market in action. If so many people so it that the shows cannot be sustained in that way, it's just people collectively saying that the shows aren't worth the commercial load.

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