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CBS Would Like to Have Its Editorial Independence Cake and Eat It Too

As you may or may not recall, CBS made waves not all that long ago when they decreed from on high that CNET, which exists under the greater CBS umbrella, would not be granting Dish Network’s Hopper an award after this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Now, the award would have normally been a blip on the radar, but CBS interfering with CNET’s journalism gave the whole thing way more publicity. More amusing, however, is the fact that CBS is also fighting for the editorial independence of CNET when it comes to an injunction to prevent them from covering BitTorrent. Yeah.

The gist of the original interference is that the upper echelon at CBS apparently learned that CNET would be granting Dish Network’s Hopper a “Best of Show” award, and they weren’t too happy about it. The ruling came down that CNET would not longer review or cover devices that their parent company happened to be sparring with legally. This, of course, puts the journalistic institution in a bind.

That’s just half of the story, though. A lawsuit against CBS Interactive seeks to prevent CNET from pointing to or encouraging the use of BitTorrent technology because of — what else? — piracy concerns. As usual, this litigation originates from the music industry. The funny thing is, CBS appears to only be concerned with curbing the content of their subsidiaries when it directly affects their own bottom line, not that of others.

Here’s part of CBS’ response to the litigation, filed this past Friday:

The injunction Plaintiffs seek would substantially damage CBSI’s business of providing a comprehensive index of software applications and editorial information about them.By contrast, the injunction would not prevent either downloads of BitTorrent client software, or potential infringement of Plaintiffs’ works. If CBSI were enjoined from linking to sites that offer downloads of BitTorrent clients, those sites would still remain available to the public and would still be easily found by a simple search on Google—albeit without the warning against infringement that CBSI provides.Because CBSI is neither the developer nor the distributor of the software, future downloads of BitTorrent clients and use of the software—infringing or non-infringing—would not be halted by the proposed injunction. Moreover, the public interest would be damaged by denying legitimate and truthful information about a pervasive technology, as well as by impeding non-infringing uses.

Emphasis mine. CBS apparently doesn’t see the problem, though, as this is what they told The Hollywood Reporter when questioned on the matter:

CNET is not going to give an award or any other validation to a Product which CBS is challenging as illegal, other Networks believe to be illegal and one court has already found to violate the copyright act in its application. Beyond that, CNET will cover every other product and service on the planet.

Oh good. They’ll cover everything unless you don’t want them to cover it. That makes things a lot clearer.

(The Hollywood Reporter via Poynter.)

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