TV Nets Take Their Case Against Aereo to the Supreme Court

Feb 25, 2014  •  Post A Comment

The broadcast networks this week asked the Supreme Court to shut down Internet startup Aereo, arguing that the service, which uses tiny antennas to stream TV stations’ free signals to Internet-connected devices, is stealing from the networks on a massive scale, The New York Times reports.

Broadcasters including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox detailed their case against Aereo in a brief filed Monday with the high court. In it they said: “The Copyright Act does not tolerate business models premised on the unauthorized exploitation of the copyrighted works of others."

The court is scheduled to hear American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo on April 22. The case "has significant implications for a television industry undergoing profound changes, as well as challenges from upstart competitors like Netflix and Amazon," the story reports.

Aereo, which currently operates in 13 cities, has plans to grow. The company announced plans Monday to go into business starting next week in Austin, Texas.

"The company argues that it does not have to pay to retransmit the broadcasters’ programming because it temporarily assigns each viewer an antenna at its storage facility. That means instead of copying the material outright, it allows individuals to copy on their own," the story reports.

The report adds: "Lower courts are split on the legality of Aereo’s business. Last summer, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan ruled in favor of Aereo. Yet a dissenting judge in the case, Judge Denny Chin, called the Aereo system a ‘sham.’”

Judge Chin wrote: “The system employs thousands of individual dime-sized antennas, but there is no technologically sound reason to use a multitude of tiny individual antennas rather than one central antenna; indeed, the system is a Rube Goldberg-like contrivance, over-engineered in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Copyright Act and to take advantage of a perceived loophole in the law."

A federal court in Utah sided with broadcasters last week, as we reported previously. In that case the court issued an injunction that forced Aereo to shut down regional operations.

In that case, Judge Dale A. Kimball wrote: “Despite its attempt to design a device or process outside the scope of the 1976 Copyright Act, Aereo’s device or process transmits plaintiffs’ copyrighted programs to the public."

The Times adds: "The broadcasters, which invest billions to create, acquire and distribute TV shows, argue that if Aereo is allowed to operate, cable and satellite companies will develop their own technologies to avoid paying them for their content, threatening the future of their business."

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