iCraveTV Draws Ire Of NFL, Broadcasters

Internet television company iCraveTV.com Inc., Toronto, has been served with a series of cease and desist letters from powerful broadcast-reliant companies since it launched its site Nov. 30. National Football League Enterprises, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and the four major U.S. television networks are among the companies who have made the demand.

iCraveTV.com retransmits television broadcasts over its site at www.icravetv.com. The NFL claims that iCraveTV.com’s video streaming is unlawful in the United States, and also that the retransmissions could violate Canadian law because of their slowness. Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL, said the online retransmissions lagged in comparison to his company’s live broadcasts and altered the product.

“It’s herky-jerky and about a minute and half behind,” said Brian McCarthy, spokesman for the NFL. “If you think Denver’s quarterback looked slow last Monday night, you should seen him on their retransmissions.”

It’s possible iCraveTV.com will face suits that will help define copyright law on the Internet, an evolving legal landscape that affects many Net marketers. The case also could define the boundaries of Web video streaming in the geographical sense.

William Craig, president/CEO at iCraveTV.com, could not be reached for comment. However, he publicly defended his firm in a prepared statement with an interpretation of Canadian copyright law.

The law, he stated, permits Canadian cable TV companies to retransmit unaltered network broadcasts without consent. Craig suggested that his company is entitled to the same right and received word that one government agency agreed.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Toronto, released an order Dec. 17, that backed up a plan it announced earlier to exempt Internet content from the controls of Canada's Broadcasting Act. The order is expected to be lawfully challenged.

Craig nor the U.S. government have expressed anything about the lawsuits that might be aimed at his company here.

New York attorney Jeffrey Neuburger, an Internet law specialist, said that iCraveTV.coms’ Webcasts of network programs were retransmitted in the United States and therefore could be prosecuted under U.S. law.

“The facts suggest that [the broadcasters and the NFL] would have a strong case,” he said.

McCarthy also alleged that the retransmissions undermined NFL teams’ television blackout policies. Some NFL teams forbid the local broadcast of their home games if their stadium isn’t sold out.

“If the Oakland Raiders, for instance, don’t sell out,” McCarthy said, “a fan in Oakland can still pick up a telecast from the opposing team’s local affiliates on iCraveTV. We don’t think that’s fair.”

Craig worked for NBC, Fox and major Canadian networks before he launched his Internet company less than a month ago. He said in the statement that the networks are panicking because they’re unprepared for his competition.

Meanwhile, aggravated parties other than the NFL confer with their lawyers about legal attacks. Corrine Kovalsky, spokeswoman for the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, wouldn’t say whether her company was pursuing a lawsuit against iCraveTV.

“But I can tell you we haven’t ruled anything out,” she said.

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