Movie, Broadcasting Companies Sue iCraveTV

Taking legal action to stop the theft and unauthorized performances of U.S.
copyrighted films and television programs, 10 motion picture and three
broadcasting companies have filed a complaint against iCraveTV
and backers of the operation.

“This is a clear and damaging case of theft by iCraveTV that threatens the
intellectual property, investments and achievements of the U.S. television
and motion picture industry,” said Jack Valenti, president and chief
executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of
America
, during a telephone press conference.

“This
kind of cyberspace stealing must be stopped, wherever it occurs, because it
violates the principles of U.S. copyright law. Copyrighted programs and films
don’t fall from the skies; they evolve from creative artists, supported by
considerable financial investments.”

The complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court for the Western District
of Pennsylvania charges that the defendants are responsible for “one of the
largest and most brazen thefts of intellectual property ever committed in the
United States.”

iCraveTV is charged with seizing copyrighted television programs and motion
pictures and performing them via the Internet without authorization. The
complaint charges the defendants with copyright infringement, trademark
infringement, unfair competition and other torts.

The plaintiffs filing the complaint are the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.;
Disney Enterprises Inc.; Columbia TriStar Television Inc.; Columbia
Pictures Television Inc.; Columbia Pictures Industries Inc.; Metro-Goldwyn-
Mayer Studios Inc.; Orion Pictures Corp.; Paramount Pictures Corp.; Universal
City Studios Inc.; Time Warner Entertainment Co. L.P. (Warner Bros.); ABC
Inc.; CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Fox Broadcasting Co. The companies filed the
suit in Pittsburgh because iCraveTV listed a Pittsburgh address when it
registered the name of its Web site in October 1999.

The battle between iCraveTV, a Toronto unit of TVRadioNow Corp., and the U.S.
groups began last November when the Web site started carrying broadcast
content, including football games, from four Buffalo, N.Y., television
stations. A group of Canadian broadcasters also accused iCraveTV.com of
unlawfully rebroadcasting their signals and violating copyrights and
trademarks.

At the time, the company claimed the site complied with Canadian regulations
that allow Internet retransmission of Canadian-TV signals as long as they
aren’t altered and that company was negotiating with the Canadian Royalty
Tribunal to settle required royalty payments to programming-rights holders.
Canadian cable and satellite firms pay the Canadian Royalty Tribunal to carry
U.S. signals, which distributes funds to programming-rights holders.

Ian Maccallum, vice president of corporate sales and
development for iCraveTV, told Reuters the firm believes nothing is illegal about taking existing broadcast television signals in Toronto and putting them on the Internet.

“What we’re doing is ethical, is legal, is moral, and the fact that somebody
claims to the contrary does not change the true nature of it,” he said from
the firm’s headquarters in Toronto.

He said iCraveTV President William Craig left Pittsburgh last summer and
moved to Toronto, where iCraveTV began operations on Nov. 30.

Daniel A. Boehnen, an intellectual property lawyer and partner at McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Bergoff in Chicago, told InternetNews.com the broadcasters are likely to prevail.

“The law will be on the side of the broadcasters, and they
will not hesitate to jump on Mr. Craig with full force. As the broadcasters say, they own the rights to their broadcasts, and Mr. Craig has not properly
obtained rights to those broadcasts,” he said.

“His argument

that he intends to distribute only to Canadians is cute, but
disingenuous. He could use added technology to prevent use by non-Canadians
if he wanted to do so. Moreover, he doesn’t even have the rights to do this
in Canada.”

Broadcasters and sports leagues also are upset that iCraveTV shrinks the picture in order to wrap its own
advertising around the programming it distributes over the Internet.

ICraveTV carries programming from 17 U.S. and Canadian stations on its site.
The MPAA alleged in its suit that iCraveTV had claimed its site received “800,000
‘visits’ in December, and achieved 60 million instances of users being
exposed for 30 seconds to advertisements run adjacent to plaintiff’s
programming.”

The Wall Street Journal reported the NFL was concerned because it feared U.S.
Internet users could enter the site and watch sporting events that weren’t
being televised in their own home markets. The NFL and NBA also said they are
seeking financial damages from iCraveTV. In their suit, the two leagues said
they are entitled to statutory damages in the amount of $150,000 for each
game carried by iCraveTV.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to enjoin iCraveTV, the defendants and
others from infringing on the plaintiffs’ exclusive rights in the United
States under the Copyright Act. Such an injunction would include, but not be
limited to, barring the “streaming” of plaintiffs’ copyrighted programming
via the iCraveTV site or any other Internet site or any online facility of
any kind.

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