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Lawsuits seek end to Aereo

May 31, 2012

Law suits seek end to Aero

Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and other US networks are in court this week to try to stop Aereo, the start-up that takes live TV programming and sends it to mobile devices in New York for a monthly fee. If granted, a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs the “would be the end of the company,” Chaitanya Kanojia company’s chief executive told a judge at a hearing in federal court.

Kanojia testified that Aereo made no secret of its plan to assign each $12-a-month subscriber one of the tens of thousands of miniature antennas warehoused in Brooklyn. The setup allows users to capture over-the-air broadcasts for viewing on iPhones, iPads and computers. “I did this the right way,” he said. “We were public about what we’re building.”

Rather than object before Aereo launched its service this year, the plaintiffs chose “to lie in wait until we exposed ourselves and then sued us,” Kanojia said.

The copyright infringement lawsuit brought by and others accuses Aereo of copying and retransmitting their programming over the Internet unlawfully. Aereo has argued that it’s providing a legal, alternate platform for free TV broadcasts.

On cross-examination, Kanojia conceded that he and his investors were aware all along that litigation was likely and that he had even set aside funds to defend the company in court. Among the investors is Barry Diller, the former head of Paramount Pictures.

“I think investors fully understood that there was a chance that could happen,” he said when asked about the specter of a suit.

Last week, US District Court Judge Alison Nathan in New York dismissed a separate claim of unfair competition, saying it was pre-empted by the Copyright Act. No immediate ruling was expected on the motion for an injunction in the copyright case.

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