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Fox Television Stations, Inc. v. Aereokiller, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 21, 2017

Fox Television Stations, Inc; Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; Fox Broadcasting Company, Inc.; NBC Universal Media, LLC; Universal Network Television, LLC; Open 4 Business Productions, LLC; NBC Subsidiary (KNBC-TV) Inc; American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.; ABC Holding Company, Inc.; Disney Enterprises, Inc.; CBSBroadcasting Inc.; CBS Studios Inc.; Big Ticket Television, Inc.; Telemundo Network Group LLC; WNJU-TV Broadcasting LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Aereokiller, LLC; Alkiviades David; Filmon.tv Networks, Inc.; Filmon.tv, Inc.; Filmon.com, Inc.; Filmon X, LLC; Does, 1-3, inclusive, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted August 4, 2016 Pasadena, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California, D.C. No. 2:12-cv-06921-GW-JC George H. Wu, District Judge, Presiding

          Neal Kumar Katyal (argued), Frederick Liu, and Matthew A. Shapiro, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, Washington, D.C.; Thomas P. Schmidt, Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP, New York, New York; Paul Smith, Jenner & Block LLP, New York, New York; Julie A. Shepard and Richard L. Stone, Jenner & Block LLP, Los Angeles, California; Eric D. Mason, James S. Blackburn, John C. Ulin, and Ronald L. Johnston, Arnold & Porter LLP, Los Angeles, California; Murad Hussain and Robert Alan Garrett, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, D.C.; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Ryan Geoffrey Baker (argued) and Scott M. Malzahn, Baker Marquart LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Rodney A. Smolla, Wilmington, Delaware, for Amicus Curiae The Media Institute. Mark S. Chenoweth and Cory L. Andrews, Washington Legal Foundation, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Curiae Washington Legal Foundation.David B. Dreyfus, Directors Guild of America, Inc., Los Angeles, California; Anthony R. Segall, Writers Guild of America, West, Inc., Los Angeles, California;

          Benjamin F. P. Ivins and Rick Kaplan, National Association of Broadcasters, Washington, D.C.; James R. Sigel and Joseph R. Palmore, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Washington, D.C.; Paul Goldstein, Morrison & Foerster LLP, San Francisco, California; for Amicus Curiae National Association of Broadcasters.

          Ralph Oman, Pravel Professorial Lecturer in Intellectual Property and Patent Law, George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C., as and for Amicus Curiae The Former Register of Copyrights of the United States of America.

          Geoffrey Manne, International Center for Law and Economics, Portland, Oregon; Sam Kazman and Hans Bader, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.; for Amici Curiae The Competitive Enterprise Institute and The International Center for Law and Economics.

          David M. Lamb, Jordan A. Feirman, and Anthony J. Dreyer, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, New York, New York, for Amici Curiae National Football League, The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball DBA Major League Baseball, and The PGA Tour, Inc.

          J. Matthew Williams and Jay A. Rosenthal, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, Washington, D.C., for Amici Curiae The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music, Inc.; The National Music Publishers' Association; The Recording Industry Association of America; The Recording Academy; and SESAC, Inc.

          Susan Cleary, Vice President & General Counsel, Independent Film & Television Alliance, Los Angeles, California; David J. Feder and Kelly M. Klaus, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, Los Angeles, California; for Amici Curiae Paramount Pictures Corporation, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., and Independent Film & Television Alliance.

          Duncan W. Crabtree-Ireland and Danielle S. Van Lier, SAG-AFTRA, Los Angeles, California; David B. Dreyfus, Directors Guild of America, Inc., Los Angeles, California; Anthony R. Segall, Writers Guild of America, West, Inc., Los Angeles, California; for Amici Curiae Screen Actors Guild-America Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Directors Guild of America, Inc.; and Writers Guild of America, West, Inc.

          Brandon Butler; Alexandra Wilson, Law Student; Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic, American University Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C.; for Amicus Curiae Consumer Federation of America.

          Brandon Butler; Darlene Tzou, Law Student; Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic, American University Washington College of Law, Washington, D.C.; for Amicus Curiae National Federation of the Blind.

          Mitchell L. Stoltz, Electronic Frontier Foundation, San Francisco, California; Brian Quinn, Jeffrey T. Pearlman, and Phillip R. Malone, Mills Legal Clinic, Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic, Stanford, California; for Amici Curiae Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge.

          Before: Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Johnnie B. Rawlinson, and Consuelo M. Callahan, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Copyright

         Reversing the district court's partial summary judgment in favor of defendants, the panel held that a service that captures copyrighted works broadcast over the air, and then retransmits them to paying subscribers over the Internet without the consent of the copyright holders, is not a "cable system" eligible for a compulsory license under the Copyright Act.

         Under § 111 of the Act, a "cable system" is eligible for a so-called compulsory license that allows it to retransmit "a performance or display of a work" that had originally been broadcast by someone else-even if such material is copyrighted- without having to secure the consent of the copyright holder. So long as the cable system pays a statutory fee to the Copyright Office and complies with other regulations, it is protected from infringement liability.

         The panel concluded that § 111 was ambiguous on the question presented. Deferring to the Copyright Office's interpretation, the panel held that Internet-based retransmission services are not eligible for the compulsory license that § 111 makes available to "cable systems."

          OPINION

          O'SCANNLAIN, Circuit Judge:

         We must decide whether a service that captures copyrighted works broadcast over the air, and then retransmits them to paying subscribers over the Internet without the consent of the copyright holders, is a "cable system" eligible for a compulsory license under the Copyright Act.

         I

         A

         The Copyright Act of 1976 gives copyright holders six "exclusive rights, " including the exclusive right "to perform" copyrighted works "publicly." 17 U.S.C. § 106(4). The Act provides that "[a]nyone who violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner . . . is an infringer." Id. ยง 501(a). This case concerns an ...


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