The big four US broadcast TV networks – ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC – have won a longrunning legal battle against satellite-TV operator EchoStar.

US District Court Judge William P Dimitrouleas ruled that EchoStar had broken the law in providing subscribers with signals from network affiliates in a different market when they could have accessed local stations over the air. The claimant quartet argued this was a breach of copyright.

However, the judge did not award damages or impose the harshest penalty open to him – banning EchoStar from including any local broadcast stations on its satellite platform.

Both sides claimed some form of victory. “The court found that EchoStar is illegally transmitting distant ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations to hundreds of thousands of ineligible subscribers,” declared Edward O Fritts, president/ceo of the National Association of Broadcasters. “With this ruling, EchoStar's years of copyright violations will finally come to an end.”

The satellite firm, meanwhile, said it was “pleased that the court rejected the outrageous attempt by broadcasters to try to force EchoStar to terminate local and distant network channels to all customers.”

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff