PITTSBURGH -- A federal judge on Tuesday ordered a Canadian Web site to stop picking up programs from U.S. television stations and broadcasting them on the Internet where U.S. viewers can see them.
At the request of movie studios, TV networks and professional sports leagues, U.S. District Judge Donald Ziegler issued a preliminary injunction against the Toronto-based iCraveTV.com.
The plaintiffs saw it as a test case against copyright infringements via the Internet and a fight for control of their advertising income. Web surfers watching programs rebroadcast by iCraveTV would see advertisements sold by the site in a frame surrounding the TV image.
Jack Valenti, president and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association, called Tuesday's order a milestone "in our battle to stop this kind of cyberspace theft."
"These are our crown jewels at stake here," said lawyer Greg Jordan, representing the Motion Picture Association of America.
The Web broadcasts started in November but were stopped after Ziegler issued a temporary restraining order Jan. 28.
The plaintiffs -- including Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, MGM, Paramount, ABC Inc., CBS Broadcasting Inc. and Fox -- had accused iCraveTV of copyright infringement, trademark infringement and unfair competition.
They called its rebroadcasts "one of the largest and most brazen thefts of intellectual property ever committed."
Although iCraveTV is based in Canada, the lawsuit was filed in Pittsburgh because iCraveTV founder William Craig registered the Web site's domain name in suburban Sewickley, where he lived before moving to Canada.
The company had argued that, under Canadian law, it could legally capture programs including NFL games and television sitcoms and dramas from stations in Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., and rebroadcast them live over the Internet.
Craig maintained it was never his intention that the broadcasts would be picked up by viewers using computers in the United States.
The plaintiffs, however, said his security was inadequate to the task -- so much so that it seemed to them iCraveTV was soliciting American viewers and advertising dollars.
An iCraveTV vice president, Ian McCallum, said Tuesday that security measures will eventually screen out practically all U.S. users, but he said it may be impossible to keep out everyone.
Jordan said the Web site managers must be sure that no U.S. computers are accessing iCraveTV before it can return to service.
"It's really going to be up to them," he said. "They're going to have to decide how to comply with that order."
The judge said he will re-examine the issue in three months.