US broadcasters unite to stop Aereo TV service

Eight television networks and local broadcasters in New York have filed a suit against Aereo, a company that recently announced plans to deliver live local television programming online. The lawsuit seeks to block Aereo from launching its service, planned for March 14.

Formerly known as Bamboom, Aereo hoped to offer a low-cost alternative to cable to people who can’t tune in local broadcasts reliably through an antenna, or who want to watch those programmes on a mobile device. For $12 a month, it planned to offer New Yorkers the ability to watch or record local stations’ telecasts on their Internet-connected computers or smartphones, a service many broadcasters planned to deliver themselves.

The broadcasters’ lawsuit alleges that such retransmissions violate their copyrights, the same argument that the industry has used to shut down other services that moved free over-the-air TV onto the Internet without licences from the copyright owners.

Aereo’s USP is that instead of selling its customers channels of programming, it rents each of them one of the many tiny antennas it has set up to tune in the local stations. It also rents them the equipment needed to record, store and transmit the programs to their homes.

Aereo responded to the lawsuit on their company blog, saying:
“Today, two groups of broadcasters filed two separate federal lawsuits against Aereo in the Southern District of New York claiming that Aereo will infringe their copyrights by making available technology which enables consumers to access broadcast television via a remote antenna and DVR. Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues.

Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use.  Innovations in technology over time, from digital signals to Digital Video Recorders (“DVRs”), have made access to television easier and better for consumers.  Aereo provides technology that enables consumers to use their cloud DVR and their remote antenna to record and watch the broadcast television signal to which they are entitled anywhere they are, whether on a phone, a tablet, a television or a laptop.

Aereo very much looks forward to its upcoming product launch as well as a prompt resolution of these cases.”

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