updated 09:10 pm EDT, Thu May 24, 2012
Counter-suit by Dish filed to preemptively declare skipping legal
Fox, NBCUniversal, and CBS have all filed suit independently against Dish Network over the new AutoHop service, which with the right set-top box allows viewers to automatically skip commercials, assuming the recorded content isn't watched on the day of broadcast. The broadcast networks call the DVR technology a violation of their copyrights, a danger to quality programming, and an assault on their financial ecosystem. In an effort to counter the separate legal attacks, Dish has filed a countersuit against the three, plus ABC, in an attempt to establish the legality of advertisement skipping.
Fox issued the following statement Thursday: "We were given no choice but to file suit against one of our largest distributors, Dish Network, because of their surprising move to market a product with the clear goal of violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television ecosystem."
In a similar statement, NBC chairman Ted Harbert remarked that he though the AutoHop commercial skipper was "…an attack on our ecosystem." CBS chief Les Moonves called the technology "illegal," despite no laws on the books declaring it so. Further statements by all three networks involved in the independent suits state concern for maintaining quality of programming in the face of skippable advertisements.
Dish Network claims in the court paperwork that "this case is about freedom of consumer choice, individual families' choice to elect, if they want, to time-shift their television viewing and watch recorded television without commercials." Furthermore, the document reiterates that the commercials are not erased nor deleted, and can be watched if the viewer wishes to see them.
Dish Network released the add-on to the Hopper multi-room DVR system on May 10. The service won't allow commercials to be skipped on live broadcasts. Only subscribers to the PrimeTime Anytime service have access to the AutoHop feature.