Time Warner goes to court over iPad streaming

Time Warner Cable is taking broadcaster Viacom to court over its customers' right to view TV programmes using Apple's iPad.

Warner was forced to pull a number of channels operated by Viacom from its iPad app after it was warned that its licensing agreement did not cover using the tablet PC to view programming.

TWC is now asking a New York judge to make a declamatory ruling in the case which could have far reaching consequences for the way people view broadcast material they have fairly paid for.

Viacom's position is that its content is licensed for home use only, and that the portable nature of the iPad violates the agreement between the tow companies and that iPad users should pay extra. Warner is arguing that punters should be able to watch that content wherever and whenever they see fit.

TWC reckons a screen is a screen is a screen and it shouldn't matter whether it is fixed to a wall or plugged into a set-top box.

In a blog posting, TWC's Jeff Simermon pointed out that the court action was in no way hostile, but was intended to resolve the dispute between the two companies which had reached an impasse.

"Ultimately, we are very confident in our rights to distribute our programmers’ feeds over our cable distribution infrastructure to any digital device within our customer’s home. And some of our programming partners have taken the position that our interpretation is wrong.

"We are confident enough in our interpretation of our rights that we are willing to take the matter to court."

Warners general council Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum added, “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. With over 360,000 downloads of our app, it is clear that our customers welcome the convenience and flexibility [it] provides.”

The outcome of this case could well change the whole way in which licensing works in the US and further afield, and force an update to outdated legal precedents set years ago before anyone had even dreamed of the iPad and its ilk.