Advanced Television

Judge clears Aereo for live TV broadcasts

July 12, 2012

By Colin Mann

Aereo, the start-up that takes live TV programming and sends it to mobile devices in New York, can continue with its service, despite objections from major broadcasters who argue that expansion can threaten the free broadcasting of events such as the Super Bowl, a judge ruled Wednesday.

US District Judge Alison Nathan said she understood how the service provided by the company, Aereo, may be unfair to broadcasters, but said the law left her no choice but to reject a request by News Corp.’s Fox and other broadcasters to stop its broadcasts.

Aereo alllows customers capture over-the-air broadcasts for viewing on iPhones, iPads and computers for $12 a month. A copyright infringement lawsuit filed by Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and others, accused Aereo of copying and retransmitting their programming over the Internet unlawfully.

Aereo argued that it was providing a legal, alternate platform for free TV broadcasts and was merely letting users rent a remotely located antenna to access content they could receive for free by installing the same equipment at home. If granted, a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs the “would be the end of the company,” Aereo chief executive Chaitanya Kanojia told a judge at a hearing in federal court.

Nathan acknowledged that the broadcasters were likely to suffer irreparable harm as a result of her ruling, such as being able to negotiate with advertisers following the apparent loss of viewers via traditional distribution channels. Retransmission agreements could be similarly affected.

She added that broadcasters’ “showing of imminent irreparable harm is substantial, but not overwhelming.”

“Today’s decision is a loss for the entire creative community,” the broadcasters said in a joint statement. “The judge has denied our request for preliminary relief – ruling that it is OK to misappropriate copyrighted material and retransmit it without compensation.”

Kanojia said in a statement the ruling “shows that when you are on the right side of the law, you can stand up, fight the Goliath and win. This isn’t just a win for Aereo, it’s also a significant win for consumers who are demanding more choice and flexibility in the way they watch television.”

CBS spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs said the broadcaster intended to appeal the decision to the Second Circuit immediately and seek expedited consideration. “We also intend to seek damages and a permanent injunction before this court,” she added.

NBC said in a statement that the court “clearly determined” that Aereo was harming broacasters and content creators.





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