Friday, April 8, 2011

Time Warner, Viacom Take iPad App Feud To Court


A new iPad app is raising questions about programming ownership rights. Time Warner and Viacom are suing each other over Time Warner's iPad app, which allows customers to view programming on the tablet. Time Warner says its customers should be allowed to view programming on any device, while media companies say their rights are being violated.

Time Warner Cable Inc. and Viacom Inc. took their dispute over what content can be put on the cable company's iPad Relevant Products/Services app to federal court on Thursday, asking a judge to decide the issue.

The companies filed lawsuits against each other after Time Warner agreed to drop a dozen cable channels from the popular tablet Relevant Products/Services computer sold by Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc.

News Corp.'s Fox Cable Networks, Viacom and Discovery Communications Inc. had asked Time Warner to pull their programming from its iPad app, which was launched last month. They said putting the programs on it was violating their programming contracts.

The media companies say Time Warner should pay more money to distribute on devices other than television sets. Time Warner says existing contracts already provide it with the rights.

Viacom said in its lawsuit that it cannot let Time Warner "unilaterally change the terms of its contractual relationship." It acknowledged that the cable company had taken the cable channels off the tablet computer by April, but it said a court order would be necessary to keep the company from putting the channels back on. It also asked for $2 million for each violation of the contract between the companies, along with unspecified additional damages.

Time Warner said in a release that the court should rule that it is permitted to provide the programming over its cable systems for viewing on devices of its customers' choosing, including iPads.

"We have steadfastly maintained that we have the rights to allow our customers to view this programming in their homes, over our cable systems, without artificial limits on the screens they can use to do so, and we are asking the court to confirm our view," Times Warner Cable executive vice president and general counsel Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum said in a statement.

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