7:39am PT by Alex Ben Block, Eriq Gardner
Fox Broadcasting Sued for Allegedly 'Scaring' Tech Giants From Digital TV Company
Alkiviades "Alki" David, a controversial digital media entrepreneur, is looking for some revenge against Fox Broadcasting.
The basic premise of the lawsuit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court is straightforward: Fox allegedly has libeled David's company, FilmOn.com, by making false statements and misrepresenting past court orders to third parties including Apple, Google and Microsoft.
But beneath the surface is an ongoing and heated war over the copyright legitimacy of technology used to digitally deliver over-the-air TV.
Fox says in a statement, "Although we have not seen the suit we welcome the opportunity to let the court determine the legitimacy of Mr. David's business practices."
David is an eccentric billionaire who operates several businesses, mostly recently KILM Channel 64 in Los Angeles. He has poured $17 million into FilmOn, his company that digitally transmits on-air television and other video content to subscribers. The company's board includes Charlie Sheen and Ice-T, among others.
He's been locked in a battle with the major TV networks for quite some time, and after he launched FilmOn about five years ago, he was taken to New York federal court by CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. There, the networks prevailed in getting a preliminary injunction that stopped the transmission of their networks on FilmOn.
But David says he changed the technology and launched a new iteration of the service. He was emboldened when in July, a federal judge denied an injunction against one of his competitors, Aereo, which he believes is offering a similar technology as his own.
Nevertheless, he was sued again by all the networks this past summer.
As he continues to defend FilmOn from the networks that believe his service is a huge threat to the TV industry, David has been attempting to make inroads in the technology sector. Recently, he says he struck a deal with Lenovo, one of the world's biggest computer manufacturers, to have FilmOn TV Live to be the exclusive streaming app preloaded on Lenovo's Window 8 devices. Concurrently, he's been submitting his apps for distribution through Apple, Google and Microsoft.
Fox hasn't let this go unnoticed, he alleges in his new complaint for trade libel.
He charges Fox, which he now considers to be a competitor, with a "malicious attempt to dissuade those companies from offering those apps to their customers for download."
Fox did so by passing around the 2009 injunctive order, even though he says "the New York Injunction pertains to different parties and technologies."
"Fox knew that these statements were false when it made them," the lawsuit continues, adding that Fox's lawyers have violated the confidentiality of a certain deposition that he gave to "target additional prospective business partners of FilmOn."
As a result of Fox’s actions, charges the suit, Apple, Google and Microsoft removed FilmOn’s apps from their stores.
He now is demanding compensatory damages and an order restraining Fox from engaging in further alleged unlawful contact with FilmOn's retailers, suppliers, partners and customers.
This isn't the first time that David has sought revenge in the courtroom. He previously targeted the digital division of CBS for "hypocrisy" for allowing Internet users to download P2P software such as Grokster and Limewire. After a settlement, that case was put on hold, but David says he plans to revive it soon.
In the meantime, he has picked a new battle with Fox that targets discussions made between a top television network and big tech companies in the ongoing battles over piracy. The lawsuit also indirectly deals with the way that nondefendants Apple, Google and Microsoft handle their app stores -- of interest to many in the tech community -- and raises the issue of whether alleged interference can amount to trade libel.
UPDATED: We've added Fox' statement above.