Cable company or not? ivi, Inc. (pronounced ivy) based out of Seattle has been offering software that provides live video streaming over the Internet for a flat rate. ivi claims to be the first online cable company offering live television on the Internet.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a preliminary injunction against ivi, Inc., ruling that its service likely infringes the copyrights of major broadcasters like NBC, ABC, and FOX, which had filed suit to keep the new technology offline.

While ivi’s service is certainly groundbreaking, it came up against a significant roadblock—the U.S. Copyright Act. The appeals court rejected the company’s argument that is a “cable system” under § 111 of the Copyright Act. This provision allows cable systems to publicly perform and retransmit signals of copyrighted television programming to its subscribers under a compulsory license.

The Second Circuit acknowledged that the statutory text of the Copyright Act is unclear as to whether a service that retransmits television programming live and over the Internet constitutes a cable system. However, it ultimately concluded that Congress did not intend for § 111’s compulsory license to extend to Internet transmissions. It pointed specifically to the legislative history, noting that if Congress had intended to extend § 111’s compulsory license to Internet retransmissions, it would have done so expressly.

The appeals court also agreed that ivi’s Internet streaming service would cause irreparable harm to broadcasters.

ivi, has appealed to the Supreme Court to decide its fate. If the Supreme’s decide that the name fits, ivi will be back in business and broadcasters will need to figure out how to monetize this before their programming is further diminished. I will keep you posted.

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– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +