* Says cable nets imposing “artificial limits” on screens
* Time Warner Cable iPad app features 43 channels
NEW YORK, April 7 (Reuters) - Time Warner Cable TWC.N and Viacom Inc VIAb.N on Thursday countersued each other in an escalating battle over whether cable companies have the right to distribute TV shows to devices like Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) iPad tablet.
Time Warner Cable asked a court for a declaratory judgment regarding Viacom’s demand that the cable company stops delivering its programming on devices like the iPad.
The lawsuit in Manhattan federal court said Viacom had threatened legal action against TWC for transmitting Viacom services to TWC cable subscribers who wish to use iPads in their homes as an additional screen to watch their cable service.
It asks the court to declare that TWC is not infringing any copyrights held by Viacom by providing services to its subscribers, including through the TWCable TV iPad App, a “Smart TV” application “and other comparable applications and services.”
Viacom’s suit seeks damages for what it says is TWC’s breach of their licensing and distribution agreements.
“Viacom has made clear that it is willing to discuss extension of similar rights to others -- including TWC. What Viacom cannot do, however, is permit one of its contracting partners, TWC, to unilaterally change the terms of its contractual relationship,” it said in the suit.
The legal action follows a March 15 decision by Time Warner Cable to launch an iPad app which allows iPad owners to view some of their favorite channels while they are in the home.
Viacom, News Corporation (NWSA.O) and Discovery Communications (DISCA.O) have ordered Time Warner Cable to stop the practice, saying that their current carriage agreements do not permit the cable company to deliver live programming on devices like the iPad.
Time Warner Cable argues that the network owners are imposing “artificial limits” on the screens it can distribute programming to customers.
Viacom said in a statement it has always negotiated to distribute programming based on specific technologies and devices. It said Time Warner Cable did not do that.
“Time Warner Cable simply launched the product without a license to distribute our programming through an iPad app. They blatantly grabbed the rights that their competitors have negotiated in good faith to obtain.”
The Time Warner Cable app now has 43 channels and has been downloaded about 360,000 times, according to the cable company.
Cablevision Systems Corp CVC.N launched its own iPad app on Saturday offering nearly 300 channels. It said it has had more than 50,000 downloads.
Both Time Warner Cable and Viacom’s suits was filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York No. 11-2387 and No. 11-2376.
Reporting by Yinka Adegoke and Grant McCool; Editing by Bernard Orr