Legal Fight Over Dish’s Auto Hop Set for California – Mostly

New York judge says case can proceed in California, where networks filed suit

A New York federal judge says the fight over Dish Networks' new ad-skipping Auto Hop feature will play out in California.

Dish sued over Auto Hop in New York on May 24, the same day CBS, NBC and Fox sued in California. That created a dispute over which venue should handle the case. The judge's ruling Monday points to California — though the dispute will partially continue in New York.

ABC did not sue in California, but rather filed a counter claim against Dish in New York. Because of that, U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain said the ABC-related aspects of the case would be allowed to proceed in New York.

Fox welcome the news that the arguments would be heard mostly in California, which is part of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We are pleased that the court has determined that Fox, as the true victim and plaintiff here, should have the right to proceed in its chosen forum in the 9th Circuit," Fox said in a statement.

The networks contend that Auto Hop — which allows viewers to watch previously aired primetime network shows without ads — is a threat to ad-sponsored television. But Dish says the technology is just a more advanced version of fast forwarding.

Fox said the ruling on venue would allow the parties to address the fundamental questions of the case.

"Now we move on to the real issue at hand – demonstrating that Dish Network has created and marketed a product with the clear goal of breaching its license with Fox, violating copyrights and destroying the fundamental underpinnings of the broadcast television business — which damages not only Fox and the other major networks, but also the hundreds of local stations around the country.  We look forward to trying and winning the case on its merits."

The networks accuse Dish of copyright infringement in their claims against the satellite cable provider. Dish sued seeking a declaratory judgment that Auto Hop does not infringe on their copyrights.

Dish said in a statement Monday it would "stand behind consumers and their right to skip commercials, something they have been doing since the invention of the remote control.”

“Regardless of the venue, we look forward to proceeding with this case, recognizing that it has been 28 years since the Supreme Court’s Betamaxdecision held that a viewer, in the privacy of their home, could record a television show to watch later," Dish general counsel R. Stanton Dodge said. "The Court ruled that ‘time-shifting’ constituted a fair use of copyrighted television programming. Those Betamax users could permissibly fast-forward through commercials on recorded shows – just as DVR users do today."

Pamela Chelin contributed to this story.