* US TV networks file restraining order to stop FilmOn
* Networks have sued FilmOn and ivi Inc
* FilmOn charged $9.95 for service, now free
(Adds FilmOn comment)
By Kenneth Li
NEW YORK, Nov 9 Four top U.S. television
networks have asked a federal court to stop the Internet video
service FilmOn.com from offering TV channels over the web and
on Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) iPad for free.
FilmOn.com Plc 2F0.BE, which claims to be the first high
definition Internet television network, launched in September
2010 and was founded by British billionaire entrepreneur Alki
David, who recently offered to pay $1 million for someone to
strip naked in front of U.S. President Barack Obama.
"I'm not a thief," David said in a phone interview on
Tuesday. "We're a bona fide business. We're not pirates."
The network's suit comes as start-ups have sought to bypass
traditional media companies by offering programming to Internet
users without paying fees to free-to-air channels.
The networks, eager to control the way their programs are
distributed, in September sued ivi Inc, a service that offers
TV channels over the Web. Some TV networks have also blocked
videos on their websites from Google Inc's (GOOG.O) Google TV.
FilmOn, a Berlin-listed company, initially charged users
$9.95 per month, to access "over 30 premium free-to-air
television channels." But it began offering the service for
free after the networks sued FilmOn days after its Sept. 27
launch, according to a copy of the restraining order seen by
"It's against the law to steal a broadcast signal and
stream it to wireless devices and over the Internet, without
the copyright owner's permission," the networks said in a joint
statement. "FilmOn.com is the latest in a short line of
companies that has robbed our broadcast signals and distributed
them illegally for their own commercial gain."
David, whose biography on the website said he "stars in
major Hollywood films and mini series as well as writing,
directing and starring in his own independent movies" and who
is "experienced in commerce and banking", said FilmOn was well
within its rights to rebroadcast networks offered for free over
"The (US copyright) rules does not require the consent of
the broadcast owner," David said, according to his reading of
U.S. copyright law.
David added he was in negotiations with two of the four
plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but declined to name the companies.
"We'll see if we can avoid lawyers getting paid more
money," David said. But, "I'm not shy of a fight ... If we're
making money, we're prepared to pay. If we're not making money
, we're not prepared to pay."
The plaintiffs in the case are CBS Corp, Walt Disney Co's
(DIS.N) ABC, General Electric Co (GE.N)-controlled NBC and News
Corp's (NWSA.O) Fox, and CBS Corp (CBS.N).
(Reporting by Kenneth Li and Yinka Adegoke, editing by Gerald
E. McCormick and Sofina Mirza-Reid)