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FilmOn Founder Plans to Sue CBS, CNET for Distributing Piracy Software

FilmOn Founder Plans to Sue CBS, CNET for Distributing Piracy Software

FilmOn founder Alki David charges CNET, a subsidiary of CBS, with the distribution of “illegal software” that allows users to circumvent DRM technology in violation of the Copyright Act as well as other software that lets users illegally stream and download copyrighted material. Countersuit is in response to claims by CBS and other TV broadcasters that FilmOn illegally retransmits copyrighted programming.

Updated 01/02/11 to include quote from FilmOn founder Alki David.

In one of the more bizarre twists of copyright infringement lawsuits, FilmOn founder Alki David, accused by CBS of illegally transmitting its TV station broadcasts, said he plans to countersue because its subsidiary, CNET, engages in the “illegal distribution of DRM [digital rights management] removal software as well as the illegal distribution of file sharing software with malicious intent to infringe on copyright.”

At first glance the lawsuit seems laughable, but David makes a rather convincing argument.

“CNET, a subsidiary of CBS Interactive, which is a division of CBS, has for several years now been distributing BitTorrent software online,” David says in an online video posted on YouTube last week. “That’s right piracy. CBS through its subsidiary CNET has distributed over 1 billion illegal file-sharing softwares [sic] as well as DRM cracking softwares [sic].”

FilmOn.com allows subscribers who pay $9.99 a month to access live HD TV feeds online. TV broadcasters claim he’s retransmitting copyrighted programming without their consent, and last month successfully convinced a judge to issue a temporary injunction.

Although the Copyright Act requires broadcasters to license retransmission broadcasts of their content to cable systems and broadcast satellites, the networks argue that Section 111 of  the Copyright Act doesn’t apply to streaming internet services.

This where David seems to make a rather confusing argument. On the one hand he says that he is a cable system and eligible for a compulsory license, but on the other he says that he is not and therefore his secondary transmission is exempt from the Copyright Act.

“Mr. David is clearly not feeling very good about his prospects in the court system.  He is hardly an expert on intellectual property rights,” CBS said in response to David’s YouTube video. “CNET respects such rights, and meanwhile the court has issued a temporary restraining order against Mr. David and his company. We continue to think that the court is the best venue to determine the outcome of this case, one in which unauthorized use of our content has been distributed illegally.”

There’s no mention of when David plans to countersue, but he does make an interesting counterclaim about CNET, and therefore CBS, engaging in some illegal behavior of its own. For the Copyright Act expressly forbids the distribution of DRM circumvention software and CNET clearly makes this type available on its site, some even boasting high “Editors Rating” marks.

From the Copyright Act:

(2) No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that ”

(A) is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title;

(B) has only limited commercially significant purpose or use other than to circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title; or

(C) is marketed by that person or another acting in concert with that person with that person’s knowledge for use in circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.

In fact, earlier this year US District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued a permanent injunction against Real Networks DVD-backup software RealDVD. She declared that RealDVD, in order to make backup copies, would likely violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Content Scramble System (CSS) license.

The MPAA maintains that making even one backupcopy of a DVD is illegal, arguing that the price of a DVD is predicated on the “notion of certain use rights associated with certain price points,” and that it would have to change the price of DVDs (certainly upwards) if people wanted to be able to make copies.

The Librarian of Congress at the US Copyright Office has clarified some of the exceptions to this rule, but only laid out allowable purposes for circumventing the Content Scrambling System protecting DVDs, and not the lawful distribution of the software that does so.

David also highlights the plethora of software on CNET that allows users to stream and watch copyrighted content in much the same way that FilmOn does, and yet remain accessible to the public.

It is an interesting bout of hypocrisy. One has to be either for illegal streaming or against it, especially if you plan on suing people for daring to do the latter, and nice to see David point this out. One can’t say that it’s illegal to rebroadcast copyrighted programming and then offer software that explicitly allows you to do just that.

The counterclaim may not help lift the injunction on FilmOn and prevent it from being shutdown, but at least he’s showing the world CBS’ double standard when it comes to copyright infringement.

I think David’s real problem is trying to charge people $9.99 for a streaming service when so many free alternatives exist. Any time you try make a buck by using other people’s content without their permission you can rest assured you’ll wind up in court.

Stay tuned.

[email protected]

____________

Update:

Filmon Founder Alki David told me in an email exchange that my criticism that it unfairly profits from the use of other peoples content is unfounded, that it only began charging users the $9.95 monthly subscription fee AFTER discussions with the TV networks.

“When FilmOn got the temp injunction, at the time we were not charging the $9.95,” he writes. “We took a decision to not charge till after discussing with the Networks. Who led by CBS have been relentless in trying to top us.”

The plot thickens indeed.



Jared Moya
I've been interested in P2P since the early, high-flying days of Napster and KaZaA. I believe that analog copyright laws are ill-suited to the digital age, and that art and culture shouldn't be subject to the whims of international entertainment industry conglomerates. Twitter | Google Plus
Litigator
Litigator

Lets use our deductive reasoning skills here, shall we? It will be a lot easier for those who are calling this guy an idiot, to realize that he is not. The anti-trafficking/ anti-circumventing section of the DMCA section 1201(2)(a) says: No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public, provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title. CBS/CNET is offering to the public DRM software through their download section. Anyone from the public can download it. DRM software's sole purpose is to circumvent tech measures that control access to copy written works. CBS does not fall into any of the exempt classes. Thus, CBS is in violation of DMCA section 1201(2)(a). ITS THAT SIMPLE. Now many of you can blast this guy for being an idiot. You can claim that the software is only a tool, not in itself illegal, and the user is committing the crime. As the commentator with the pencil analogy does. But the fact is Congress enacted the law to read that anyone distributing the DRM software is committing an illegal act. The law is the law. It might be stupid to criminalize the distribution of a tool, but that is the law we are stuck with. Now I know this sounds hookey , but: If you want to change the law, contact you elective representative. Nevertheless, I do not believe it will help him in CBS' lawsuit against him. He will also have to show that he has standing, that the distribution of the DRM software violated his particular copyrights. Something that he has yet to show. Maybe he should just report the crime and let the FBI and the attorney general go after CBS for the violation. It would save him a boat load of money in having to prosecute it.

Fuck Cbs
Fuck Cbs

@ William, it's rated yellow because you can watch pretty much anything so NOT for kids. @ people who say he is violating copyright BS. He is not, there is no law stating that the stream of broadcasted tv online is ILLEGAL SO F*CK OFF. If streaming anything that may have been on tv is illegal let's go to youtube for a few minutes... Search Family Guy, or really any tv show you want to watch it's more than likely on there. So BOOM, that just blew you outta the water didn't it? lol, retards have fun

DownloaderM
DownloaderM

Here's the link to the CNET Software to use to PROTECT us against copyright infringing lawsuits! The CNET editors say so and it's CBS so it's legal! And click teh picture and they show a bunch of sample screencaps with lady gaga n other song. CNET uses it with Limewire in the test ( Old Version before the RIAA BS), but teh comments say it's good w/ bittoorent too! This prooves this article guy and Film on guy are wrong! (? CNET guys Review isnt on newest version anymore,???? must be glitch? Here's old version w/ review) http://download.cnet.com/ZapShares/3000-2196_4-11181002.html

DownloaderM
DownloaderM

I got worried & checked out CNET & they have a software download called Zapshares ( Google Zapshares & CNET ) and the editor's even review it giving it like 5 stars to prevent copyright infringing lawsuits. The CNET staff really says that, See the CBS / CNET guys are lookin out for us to keep us from being sued for our free songs n movies. They even have like pictures demonstrating Lady Gaga Songs being downloaded on Zapshares. CBS Rocks!

BRN
BRN

YES! Please go right ahead

DownloaderM
DownloaderM

CNET has had downloads for years for Kazaa Bittorrent Limewire Morpheus grokster with reviews showing how to use the downloads to get free music. They were showing like Lady gaga and metallics songs as samples to download from like limewire. It's frigging CBS they got lawyers, it must be legal. Why does this Alki David guy wants the free music to end. CBS says it's okay so I'm covered.

Vox Humana
Vox Humana

A chain reaction has already begun in the media. This story is only part of it. The stock equity with Viacom/CBS/CNET and subsidiaries is based on faith. Its future relies on its audience and shareholders economic loyalty in the wake of exposure, as ambitious and salient reporters reveal Viacom's dirty little secrets.

burberry
burberry

Very good article, well written and very thought out. I am looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future.

Tyler
Tyler

Alki is a huge dickhead, hope he gets got for all hes worth.

prh99
prh99

Wow this guy is an idiot, he may have point with back up software, but the rest is utter nonsense.

SacredSilverYoshi
SacredSilverYoshi

If you watched the video at around the 6:00 mark, you would notice that Mr. David sent CBS President of Television Stations (Peter Dunn) an email offering them a chance to participate in a way that would profit them both. As long as the he is only broadcasting these shows with the permission of those who created them, he is doing nothing wrong.

AceGirl
AceGirl

That is messed up. I cant believe they did that.

LegalEagle
LegalEagle

We are totally shocked at our firm. The charges laid out by Mr. David are founded clearly in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Under the DMCA provisions of "Anti-Circumvention Technologies" it is against Federal Law to distribute or Link to DRM Removal Software Devices. Moreover, the CNET Division of CBS Interactive did Distribute most of the LimeWire filing sharing software, over 220 million downloads from CNET's servers. CBS may have substantial financial exposure to the recent 1.5 trillion dollar LimeWire damages judgement by the RIAA. (Arista v LimeWire).

Alexmdz
Alexmdz

Lmao, im suing everyone from now on, even if its double standard what their doing...

jojo
jojo

a pencil facilitates stabbing someone in the neck, lets sue Ticonderoga pencil company.

PimpinGimp
PimpinGimp

Sounds like someone needs two sets of knee and elbow pads.

LawRacoon
LawRacoon

The last couple of paragraphs in this article demonstrates an understanding of copyright equal to that of David.

JD
JD

Funny at the end of the video he is calling CBS hypocrites, when its the very thing he is being sued over. This will not help him one bit, in fact its going to hurt him. Maybe if he just said they were doing the same thing as him, I would think otherwise. But he is calling CBS copyright thieves, and if that is the case, then both of them will be found guilty. Its stupid.

JD
JD

This idiot also is censoring any comments on his Youtube video to prevent negative comments. People have the right to make backups of software they own, and that includes removing DRM. At least morally they do, despite any man made law. File sharing software is also not illegal. This guy is a complete hypocrite.

disinter
disinter

I love it. mafiAA let the cat out of the bag and now every tom's dick in harry will come flooding out of the woodwork to file lawsuits over everything real or imagined. Meanwhile on the pirated front life goes on as always with the most MONUMENTAL mafiAA victories only being a slight annoyance. Bankrupt the country with bullshit lawsuits, I'm all for that.

Liberty
Liberty

I was really confeusd, and this answered all my questions.



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