Judge clears DISH to serve AutoHop ad-skipping feature

Joseph O'Halloran | 08-11-2012

In a decision that the satellite operator has called a victory for “common sense and customer choice, the United States District Court, Central District of California, has rejected efforts to bar DISH users from using ad-skipping functionality.

DISH launched the Hopper whole-home HD DVR system in mid-March 2012 with PrimeTime Anytime functionality, giving viewers the ability to record up to six shows at once while playing back HD content in up to four rooms.

The PrimeTime Anytime feature allows users to record the primetime shows on each of the four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) and save them for up to eight days. The AutoHop feature allows users to play back certain PrimeTime Anytime recordings commercial-free, starting the day after broadcast.

Not surprisingly content providers, led by Fox Broadcasting Company, reacted angrily to the move, taking legal action. In the ruling, Judge Dolly Gee of the US States District Court, Central District of California, today rejected Fox’s efforts to bar DISH subscribers from use of the PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop features found on the pay-TV provider’s Hopper Whole-Home DVR.

In the decision, Judge Gee found it likely that DISH customers using PrimeTime Anytime cannot be liable for copyright infringement and that copies made using the Hopper’s PrimeTime Anytime feature do not infringe on Fox’s exclusive reproduction rights under federal copyright laws.

DISH is interpreting the ruling as enabling it to continue to offer its subscribers the Hopper Whole-Home DVR with both the PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop features. DISH says that it is reviewing the decision, assessing its impact, especially as it relates to the quality assurance process.

Commented DISH executive vice president and general counsel, R Stanton Dodge: “Today’s ruling is a victory for common sense and customer choice … DISH is gratified that the Court has sided with consumer choice and control by rejecting Fox’s efforts to deny our customers access to PrimeTime Anytime and AutoHop - key features of the Hopper Whole-Home DVR.

"The ruling underscores the US Supreme Court’s ‘Betamax’ decision, with the court confirming a consumer’s right to enjoy television as they want, when they want, including the reasonable right to skip commercials if they so choose. We look forward to vigorously defending AutoHop and Primetime Anytime, and the choice and control those features deliver our subscribers.”