Alki David Fights TV Broadcasters' Lawsuit

The digital TV operator says in court papers that the networks are abusing the public trust.
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Alki David

The battle over the digital distribution of television continues.

FilmOn, one of Alki David's digital TV companies, has reacted to a lawsuit that was filed in March with an answer and counterclaim. David is seeking a declaratory judgment that providing technology that allows consumers to receive free over-the-air broadcast signals via the Internet is not a violation of TV broadcasters' copyrights.

The move came earlier this week, shortly before David's competitor Aereo announced that it would be launching in Chicago on Sept. 13. The broadcasters are still attempting to stop this. For instance, earlier this month, Fox filed a new injunction motion against Aereo that was based on its "Watch Now" feature. (Read that motion here.)

Meanwhile, as Aereo expands beyond New York, the parties have been making various legal moves.

In March, the TV broadcasters sued FilmOn/AereoKiller, which at the time of the filing, we hypothesized might have been carefully calculated to gain precedent against a more favored target. (Unlike Aereo, the broadcasters have experienced prior legal success against David's companies.)

In an answer that was just filed, FilmOn looks for a D.C. federal court to get into the copyright debate by flagging the long-view.

FilmOn says that broadcasters' "repetitive litigious behavior is inconsistent with the statutory obligations
associated with the broadcast licenses granted to the Networks, which enable the Networks to access valuable broadcast frequencies – a public trust. Having initially accepted billions of dollars in public resources and various other regulatory benefits, the Networks now seek to renege on the deal struck with Congress under the Communications Act of 1934 and abandon their responsibilities to the American public."

STORY: Meet Alki David: The Billionaire Hollywood Bad Boy Being Sued by Every TV Network 

This legal document being an Alki David production, there's of course some color involved.

For instance, his legal papers speak about what the government got from Comcast in approving its merger with NBCUniversal in 2011. NBC is said to have agreed to meet in good faith and negotiate with online video distributors, and David says he was one of them.

"At the meeting, Mr. David asked NBC what titles it was willing to sell to FilmOn," says the counterclaim. "NBC’s executives responded by saying they would only be willing to sell FilmOn one particular program from the dawn of television that is essentially worthless at present day, for a cost of $500,000.00 per year. Recognizing this to be an obvious non-offer (no one would ever pay market premium rates for such an aged title), Mr. David implored NBC to make FilmOn a reasonable offer for legitimate content. It refused to do so."

The answer then speaks about how David struck a deal with a Fox affiliate in Europe only to have Fox's headquarters kill it after he issued a press release.

Here's the full answer and counterclaim.

A spokesperson for the TV networks said he hadn't seen the papers yet so he wouldn't comment.

Twitter: @eriqgardner