Unsurprisingly, TV broadcasters don’t like that Aereo is taking the content they provide freely over-the-air and putting it on the Internet for everyone to enjoy. The startup is currently embroiled in a number of court cases over its product, and now that legal battle enters a new arena with Fox Broadcasting Co., Sinclair Broadcast Group and Local TV launching a new Federal Court suit.
This is the third such venue for the legal altercation between Aereo and its detractors, with previous cases landing in U.S. District courts in New York and Boston, too. Aereo’s opponents are simply following the startup as it expands to new markets in the U.S., opening up a new case with each launch.
Aereo offers smartphone, tablet and other connected device owners a small antenna that can receive terrestrial TV signals for watching live TV on their gadgets, as well as cloud-DVR services for recording said content for later viewing. Aereo users pay a fee for the privilege, with plans starting at $8 a month for 20 hours of cloud-based video storage, with $12 offering up three times as much space for recordings.
Fox and others, including CBS, NBC and ABC, maintain that Aereo is rebroadcasting its content without permission, and is therefore in violation of copyright protection. Aereo says it isn’t doing that, and in fact violates no laws with its service – a panel of judges in New York has agreed, and an appeal by broadcasters to have that decision reviewed was also rejected. Aereo’s claims, which the court agreed with, revolve around its antenna units operating independent of one another, rather than through some centralized service, in exactly the same way as existing HDTV and other antenna systems.
In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Aereo’s Virginia Lam offered the following:
In 2012, Fox and other broadcasters chose to file copyright lawsuits against Aereo in the federal courts in New York. Last year, the trial court denied Fox’s and the other broadcasters’ request for a preliminary injunction against Aereo; and, in April, the appeals court affirmed that decision. The fact that Fox did not prevail in their efforts to enjoin Aereo in their existing federal lawsuit does not entitle them to a do-over in another jurisdiction. All this meritless suit amounts to is forum shopping and we are hopeful that any such efforts to commence duplicative lawsuits to try to seek a different outcome will be rejected by the courts.
Strong words, but Aereo’s earned the right, and it’s hard to perceive this move by Fox and its fellow broadcasters as much more than bullying.