Time Warner and Viacom take iPad dispute to court

Time Warner and Viacom have upped the stakes in their battle over whether Viacom’s programming should be available on the iPad.

Time Warner released an iPad app last month designed to let users watch certain programs on their tablets at home. But content providers Viacom, Scripps Networks, Fox Cable Networks and Discovery Communications were unhappy with this, and threatened legal action; Time Warner pulled the channels from the app.

Now, though, Time Warner has filed a request for a declarative judgment that it can transmit Viacom programming to any device in a customer’s home.

“We’re at an impasse with a handful of network owners, and we need an impartial third party to referee the situation and confirm that our interpretation is correct. We thought the most efficient way to settle this would be to go before a judge and ask for a decision that, while noncombative, would establish the rights that we bargained for,” says Time warner’s director of digital communications Jeff Simmermon.

“If we weren’t completely certain that we had the rights to distribute television to our customers’ iPads within their homes, we wouldn’t be asking for the court’s attention.”

Shortly after Time Warner’s filing, Viacom jumped in with its own, alleging breach of contract and copyright violations. It says the app amounts to unlicensed distribution, and that it will interfere with Viacom’s ability to license content to third-party broadband suppliers.

It appears that the company doesn’t necessarily mind all that much, just so long as Time Warner’s prepared to pay. “With $5.2 billion in cash from operations last year, Time Warner Cable can certainly afford to provide our programming through this new broadband service without passing along any additional costs to its customers,” it says.