Lawyers up in arms as cable goes wireless

Time Warner narrowly avoided a lawsuit over including TV channels on an iPad app last week, but has responded by putting a dozen new channels on the service. The stance appears to have inspired at least one cable provider rival to follow suit.

The app involved is considerably more limited that you might expect given the dispute. It’s only available to Time Warner customers, only works on the Wi-Fi network of the customer concerned (and not on that of friends who also subscribe), and only shows live streaming of channels, with on-demand service. Of course, if you are a subscriber and want to watch shows in bed or in the garden without the need for an extra TV set and cable box, or a messy extension lead, it could be very useful.

Last week Time Warner pulled a dozen channels from the app, specifically those controlled by Fox, Discovery, Scripps and Viacom. According to the New York Times, the companies were “minutes away from filing their legal paperwork.”

Time Warner is claiming that the app is completely legal and notes that the channels are only available to subscribers. It argues the iPad streaming is no different to showing a channel on a second TV set. And to show it’s not giving up on the idea, it’s since added another 19 channels including Bravo and CNN.

Meanwhile Cablevision has added its own app, containing both on demand video and getting on for 300 live channels. It’s got a slightly more complex authorization system, with customers allowed to install the app on three iPads but only use two at the same time. ZDnet notes Cablevision has already put forward the argument that it routes the channels via its own cabling and then the customer’s Wi-Fi, meaning it isn’t technically broadcasting the channels via the Internet, which is what channel owners have argued is illegal.

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