Do you remember the cable descramblers from years ago that people used to gain access to premium channels that have been scrambled by the cable providers? We never had one in the house when I was growing up (which is good, since I ended up practicing intellectual property law). However, I remember visiting people’s houses that had the “black box” hooked up to their TV. In exchange for flexible ethical standards, disregard for the law, and the risk of getting caught, these households could receive free HBO, Shotime, and Stars. For me, that’s a bad deal. But, it doesn’t surprise how this tradeoff could be justified by more than a couple people.
Welcome the digital age. No longer could a cable pirate adjust the scan on an analog signal to tune in the blocked channels. Now, premium channels are blocked through digital encryption. A lucky viewer used to be able to view a distorted and wavy surprise on Cinemax at 1 am. Now, he or she will be greeted with a black screen.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the pirated premium networks and content owners weren’t exactly thrilled to have their content be stolen. As was the case when we had dials on our TVs, the content providers have the same position today. They do not want unauthorized access to their copyrighted materials.
For this reason, Disney has filed suit against Dish Network alleging copyright related issues and breach of contract. Apparently, Dish Network has been giving the Starz movie channel to its customers gratis. Disney displays many of their movies, such as “Toy Story 3” and “Alice in Wonderland”, on the Starz premium network. Disney contents that by providing free access to this content, Dish Network is violating its contractual agreements with both Starz and Disney.
Dish Network is preparing to fight Disney’s allegations, stating “Dish Network pays hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to distribute Starz content to our customers, which includes the rights to a number of Disney Movies.”