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The Hopper DVR at the center of breach of contract dispute

After two businesses sign off on a contract, exactly how is it determined that a breach of contract caused one of those businesses irreparable harm? That was the question recently in a Los Angeles court, where Dish Network Corp. and News Corp.'s Fox were at odds over Dish's new product, the Hopper.

Buyers of the Hopper can record shows broadcast on Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC, and then replay the video with the commercials removed. As an added service, Dish made backup copies of the programs recorded by consumers, and Fox argued that this was a breach of contract that caused irreparable harm to the business.

However, a judge disagreed, but only partially. The judge found that by making copies of Fox's programming, Dish committed copyright infringement and breached the corporations' contract. But the judge also found that the copyright infringement did not result in irreparable harm to Fox, which argued that the automatic skipping of ads unduly deprives the business of revenue.

For its part, Dish said it was only providing a service that lets consumers more easily do what they're going to do, anyway, which is record programming and skip the commercials.

In a statement, Fox had this to say: "Dish is marketing and benefitting from an unauthorized (video on demand) service that illegally copies Fox's valuable programming."

This case brings up longstanding copyright laws, but it also reflects the many business concerns that come with the production and use of modern technology. To stay ahead of the curve and keep a business moving forward, corporations of any size need to take the necessary legal steps to remain in compliance with the current rules of the industry.

Source: The Washington Post, "California judge rejects preliminary injunction of Dish's ad-skipping Hopper DVR," Nov. 7, 2012

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