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Fox loses U.S. copyright claims over Dish ad-skipper

January 22, 2015 By Jonathan Stempel and Dan Levine

A U.S. judge has rejected portions of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's lawsuit seeking to stop Dish Network Corp from selling devices that let viewers skip over commercials when playing back shows.

In a decision made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles rejected copyright claims that Fox had brought over the Hopper, Dish's digital recording device.

Gee invoked last June's U.S. Supreme Court decision against the video streaming company Aereo Inc in concluding that Dish's "sling" technology, which lets programs be viewed on a wide range of mobile devices, did not constitute a "public performance" that infringed Fox copyrights.

However, Gee allowed Fox to pursue some claims on whether Dish violated a contract governing distribution of Fox programming.

In a statement on Tuesday, Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said the company welcomed Gee's contract rulings, and was disappointed by her copyright findings.

"This case is not, and has never been, about consumer rights or new technology," Grogin said. "It's always been about protecting creative works from being exploited without permission."

In a statement, Dish said it welcomed the ruling. "Consumers are the winners today, as the court sided with them on the key copyright issues in this case," the company said. The 63-page decision is dated January 12 and had been under seal.

It may narrow the remaining litigation in a 3-year-old battle in which broadcasters accused Dish of using technology that infringed copyrights, and threatened advertising revenue by letting subscribers skip over commercials.

CBS Corp and Walt Disney Co's ABC had settled similar litigation last year, as part of broader settlements allowing Dish to broadcast the networks' programs.

Similar litigation against Dish by Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal had been put on hold pending developments in the Fox case.

Fox had been scheduled to go to trial against Dish on Feb. 24, but the case has been put on hold until Oct. 1.

Aereo, backed by billionaire Barry Diller, filed for bankruptcy in November after the Supreme Court effectively forbade its business model, involving the capture of programs on miniature antennas for retransmission to paying subscribers.

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