Internet startup Aereo, who’s slogan is “No cable required,” battle against several major broadcasters is now underway. This decision could shake up how consumers get their television. Aereo’s service takes broadcast television signals from New York-area stations and retransmit them over the Internet to Aereo subscribers. The plaintiffs, which include Fox Television, PBS, and ABC, argue that because Aereo has not licensed this television programming, it is committing copyright infringement.
Naturally, the broadcasters ask for an injunction. The request, however, was shot down by U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan back in July. The plaintiffs appeal and the case is pending in the Southern District Court of New York.
A lawyer for the broadcasters claims that “Aereo is taking the plaintiffs’ broadcast signals and reprocessing them so they can be streamed over the Internet. That is a violation of copyright law.”
Aereo contends that its new technology does not constitute copyright infringement because it provides all its customers with their own set of “rabbit ears” antennas. The video received by these rabbit ears will be digitally processed, returned to the servers, and finally streamed to users over the Internet. “Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use,” Aereo has stated.
This case will be interesting to follow. The only existing precedent involves a lawsuit involving a “remote DVR” system created by Cablevision. Similar to Aereo, the DVR was located on a Cablevision server rather than in the customer’s home.
In that case, a federal appeals court ultimately concluded that Cablevision was not liable for copyright infringement because users selected the programs that were recorded and replayed, and Cablevision stored a separate copy of each program for each customer rather streaming one copy to all customers. Many suspect Aereo will make a similar argument.
As you might expect, the media and technology industries are closely watching the case.
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I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney. As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +