Time Warner Cable—Viacom Battle Heads to Court

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The battle between Time Warner Cable and Viacom is heading to court!

Time Warner Cable and Viacom have been fighting over whether TWC can stream Viacom's channels to its iPad app in consumers' homes -- now they're turning to judges to decide. This is the latest development in what promises to be an ongoing battle between content creators and distributors -- who controls what?

Time Warner Cable filed a request for a declaratory judgment, asking the judge to rule that Time Warner Cable has rights to deliver Viacom's programming for viewing on whatever devices its customers choose, including iPads, in their homes.

Bottom line: TWC wants a judge to rule that as long as consumers' are in their homes, other screens, like the iPad, can be treated just like their TV screens. This would set a precedent for Cablevision's streaming app as well, establishing that consumers should be able to access their TV subscription from any device, including a smart phone, as long as they're as close as a TV set would be from their cable connection.

Time Warner Cable hammered its point by issuing a statement noting the overwhelming demand for the app since it launched on March 15. "With over 36,000 downloads of our TWCable TV app, it's clear our customers welcome the convenience and flexibility our new app provides," said Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum, EVP and General Counsel of TWC.

Meanwhile Viacom has filed its own lawsuit against Time Warner cable in the Southern District of New York, charging breach of contract and copyright violation.

Viacom argues that Time Warner Cable doesn't have the right to distribute its content to the iPad -- it controls that digital distribution separately. And distributing content without a license is copyright violation.

The media giant issued a statement saying: "Viacom has always negotiated rights to distribute our content based on specific technologies and devices to ensure that the unique business issues, such as security, product quality and audience measurement, are properly addressed. Instead of addressing these issues, Time Warner Cable simply launched the product without a license to distribute our programming through an iPad app. They blatantly grabbed the rights that their competitors have negotiated in good faith to obtain. Time Warner Cable removed our programming from this service only when they were threatened with a lawsuit and, now, it is asking the Court to declare their brazen acts lawful."

Viacom took a dig at Time Warner Cable, saying "With $5.2 billion in cash from operations last year, Time Warner Cable can certainly afford to provide our programming through this new broadband service without passing along any additional costs to its customers. "

The new billion dollar question question: is streaming video to a new device the same as broadcasting TV? Or is it a different kind of digital distribution?

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