A federal judge on Monday held FilmOn X in contempt for moving to air Boston TV stations despite a court order. At the same time, the judge held off any immediate fine. She ruled the company would face $20,000 a day fines if it took further action to air the stations.
In making the ruling, District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer rejected FilmOn X’s argument that it shouldn’t be blocked from airing Boston area TV stations over the Web that its competitor Aereo could air.
Collyer on Sept. 5, acting in a suit brought by Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC as well as local TV station owners in Washington, ruled that FilmOn X was illegally retransmitting local TV stations without permission and issued a restraining order blocking the company from airing the local stations anywhere in the country, except in New York and Massachusetts. An appellate court there ruled that Aereo’s service was legal. Broadcasters have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the case.
After Collyer issued her order, a Boston judge ruled that Aereo could air Boston area TV stations. The Boston ruling prompted FilmOn X to announce its own plans to air Boston stations and inspired a petition from TV networks and Washington stations asking Collyer to impose sanctions and find FilmOn X in contempt of court.
FilmOn X has said that despite its announcement of plans, the Boston stations never actually were aired and while it urged Collyer to let it air the Boston stations, the company argued that it shouldn’t be fined.
Collyer on Monday several times called FilmOn and FilmOn X founder Alki David, “uncouth” during the hearing, but elected to fine FilmOn X only if the company tries to offer additional local stations. David, who wasn’t in the court, told TheWrap that he was told by his lawyers that the judge was “pissed.”
The judge ruled as FilmOn X filed a new suit Nov. 22 challenging claims by Chicago public TV station WTTW that it was violating copyrights in airing stations on the Web. The suit asks a judge to declare FilmOn X’s technology legal.
While Aereo and FilmOn X both offer local stations over the air using thousands of tiny antennas, each assigned to an individual subscriber, the two services have different models.
FilmOn X offers its services for free and offers foreign and national channels as well as the local channels, then charges extra for high definition content and other services. Aereo offers a paid subscription service.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.