December 1 Deadline for EchoStar Cut-offs
On December 1, 2006, EchoStar, in response to a court-ordered injunction, cut off its DISH Network customers from access to distant network signals. This action comes after a ten-year legal battle between network affiliates and EchoStar concerning its illegal transmission of distant network signals that trample upon the distribution rights of local broadcasters.
The court ordered this unusual action because it found that EchoStar had violated the Copyright Act's provisions "in every way imaginable." As a consequence, EchoStar has lost its legal ability to deliver any distant network signals and was required to come into compliance on December 1.
Here are some background facts that may be helpful to you in answering questions:
- After EchoStar lost the case, the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates reached a settlement with EchoStar that would have enabled it to continue to serve any legal distant signal customers and pay broadcasters $100 million, but the court rejected that settlement, ruling that the injunction had to go into effect. Thus far, EchoStar's efforts at seeking Congressional intervention have also failed.
- Because of its egregious violation of the Copyright Act, EchoStar must turn off all distant network programming. This cut-off is not limited to ineligible subscribers (subscribers that are actually served by their local over-the-air network stations). EchoStar has lost the right to provide distant network signals to all of its subscribers.
- The nationwide, permanent injunction does not change EchoStar's local-into-local carriage rights under the Copyright Act's statutory license.
- Other than DISH Network, viewers have many options available for receiving network programming. These include:
- Free, over-the air television. An indoor or outdoor antenna may enhance reception of over-the-air broadcast television signals.
- Cable television. Viewers can subscribe to a local cable system. More information is available at www.ncta.com.
- Satellite television. Viewers can subscribe to a competing DBS provider such as DirecTV, and if they are eligible they may receive distant network signals. More information, including details on a special $150 cash bonus, is available at http://www.directv.com/switchfromdish. Alternatively, many subscribers choosing to remain with EchoStar can purchase EchoStar's local-into-local package.
- Broadband Internet. Viewers may be able to receive television from their broadband Internet providers. More information is available at such sites as www.verizon.com, www.att.sbc.com, and www.rcn.com.
In a last minute maneuver, EchoStar has entered into a scheme with a third party - National Programming Service LLC ("NPS") - whereby NPS would lease EchoStar transponders and use EchoStar's frequencies to deliver distant signals to subscribers with EchoStar satellite dishes. The affiliates have asked the court to prevent this blatant attempt to violate the terms of the permanent injunction.