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. identicon
    JBDragon, 16 Feb 2016 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re:

    You can still skip all the commercials you want. You just have to push the button. It's not that big of a deal. Generally 6 times on the 30 second skip button equals 3 minutes of a normal commercial break. 30 seconds forward, 8 seconds back in general. No waiting days. I generally wait 30 minutes from when a program starts and then play. I don't watch anything LIVE. I don't watch commercials on TV at all.

    This really only effect the laziest of people I guess. It will have very little effect. Just a bunch of wasted money going to court over this.

    You can get a TIVO Bolt and it has commercial skip. It's for only a number of channels in a time period. You hit the skip button once and it'll skip them all during that commercial break. There's no waiting days or even hours. To get around the laws, TIVO has real people watching and marking the commercial breaks manually. So you can't watch in the middle of the show and use it, you have to wait a little bit until after it's over and then it works.

    Of course that's TIVO for OTA or Cable. Not going to work for Satellite. I use the Fastest Fast forward button also, and it zips really fast, pay attention and you can see when the show starts back up, hit play and it'll jump back right as it's coming back from the commercial break. For me that works pretty good also.

    So FOX and the others won this dumb battle. You know what? So what! I'm still not watching a single commercial. I've watched very few over the years since 1999 when I got my first TIVO. Actually it was before that somewhat as I used to Record onto a VHS Player that had built in Commercial Skip. What it would do is record what you have it set to and when done, rewind and go back though marking where it thought the commercials were. it wasn't exactly fast, but it worked pretty good. The when you went to watch the tape it would FF though the commercials on it's own. I had a Radio Shack Electromagnet I used to wipe the tapes with. I'd pull the trigger and run it around the tape. It erased it much better to be used once again to record onto. I'd use them over and over again. That was one tuner, so Generally I would watch LIVE TV on one channel, and record something else on another channel.

    In general these company's really lost the WAR. To this day people can still record the content and skip on past it. It just can't be automated I guess from the company. Maybe if DISH could do the same thing my VHS player did. Instead of DISH doing the marking of commercials for everyone. Everyone's DVR just did it on it's own. Which in effects gets around the rules. After it's done recording it goes back and marks what it things are the commercials. In fact you could set this up yourself using Windows Media Center and some software which would do exactly that.

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