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U.S. broadcasters succeed in temporarily shutting down streaming TV service

By Erin Geiger Smith

(Reuters) - U.S. television broadcasters won a significant court battle on Thursday when a federal judge shut down an online television service in most parts of the country until a lawsuit on the issue is resolved.

FilmOn allows users to watch live television on their computers or mobile devices by streaming local news broadcasts and national television programs.

Twenty-First Century Fox Inc, Walt Disney Co's ABC and other networks sued FilmOn in May, claiming the service pays no licensing fees and is stealing their copyrighted content.

The broadcasters are likely to succeed on their claims that FilmOn violates their exclusive rights to their copyrighted television programming, said U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer of Washington, D.C.

The case, and others like it, are being closely watched by the television industry because services like FilmOn threaten the traditional broadcast model and broadcasters see them as a challenge to their ability to control subscription fees and generate advertising income.

FilmOn, formerly known as Aereokiller, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

FilmOn is also being sued in California by several broadcasters, including CBS Corp and Comcast Corp's NBC.

A more prominent television streaming service, Barry Diller's IAC-backed Aereo Inc, is being sued in New York.

While the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York refused to shut down Aereo while that lawsuit continues, a federal judge in California did bar FilmOn from operating in that state and the others in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The injunction issued by Collyer applies nationwide, except in the jurisdiction of the 2nd Circuit, which includes New York, Connecticut and Vermont. The 2nd Circuit's decision in the Aereo case applies in that geographical region, Collyer said.

Fox was "pleased but not surprised" that the Washington court granted the injunction and hopes the decision "will discourage other illegal services from attempting to steal our content," said Fox spokesman Scott Grogin.

An ABC spokesperson said the "decision is a further confirmation" that "internet retransmission of broadcast signals without permission is unlawful."

CBS and NBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The case is Fox Television Stations Inc, et al v. FilmOn X LLC, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 13-758.

(Reporting by Erin Geiger Smith in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker & Shri Navaratnam)

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