TV Rebroadcaster ivi.tv Shut Down by Injunction

I didn’t see any tech blogger coverage of this, then I remembered I had a dusty old blog of my own, so I’ll do a quick summary here. ivi.tv is a terrific television rebroadcasting product that enables you to watch local stations from various US markets on your computer using a downloadable client application that works on both Mac and PC. They charge a very reasonable monthly subscription fee (a fraction of what we paid for DirecTV before we got rid of it last year), but it was a bargain for the few times a month we want to watch live TV (basically, baseball playoffs and entertainment awards shows).

As you might guess, whenever big media is perturbed by technological innovation, a lawsuit must necessarily follow, and this time is no exception. This TechCrunch piece from last October, written by a presumably non-insane lawyer, talks about the legal status of ivi.tv. The writer points out that there’s an exemption to copyright law called the “passive carrier exemption” that theoretically enables companies to do what ivi.tv does as long as they don’t alter the programming (there were a few failed attempts at this where companies tried to superimpose their own advertisements, which is obviously evil). But ivi.tv doesn’t do that — they just charge subscribers a monthly fee, like any other cable operator. And importantly, ivi.tv kicks back a portion of subscriber fees to broadcasters, just like cable operators do.

Today the company announced that they were shut down by a court injunction brought by the standard evil media conglomerates (Comcast, Disney, CBS, Fox, Major League Baseball, etc.).

The net effect is that our consumption of live broadcast TV will be going from “very little” to “zero”. Well played, entertainment industry. If the Giants make the playoffs again this year, which they will, I guess I’ll watch every game from a barstool somewhere instead of the comfort of my laptop. Maybe I can teach my daughter to fetch peanuts for me or something. The net result is that the local pub will make more money from me than the TV nets ever will. That can’t possibly have been the intention here. And honestly, it can’t be long now before the black hats (also known as Our Triumphant Liberators of Content) will set up some kind of peer-to-peer rebroadcasting network. Have fun bringing a lawsuit against that, jerks.

Update: Over on GigaOM, Ryan Lawler has excerpts from the injunction, which seems to assert that because they send TV over the internet (instead of wires or via satellite), they can’t be classified as a cable operator. This seems like a pretty dippy interpretation of the law (it’s not ivi.tv is broadcasting content willy-nilly — they’re only sending it to paid users of their custom client app).