Broadcasters Snap Aereo’s Winning Streak

A Utah Court shuts down Aereo’s video service in Utah and Colorado.

CEO of Aereo Chet Kanojia speaks at the Bloomberg Panel & Reception during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival at the Bloomberg - 713 Lexington on April 23, 2012 in New York City. 
National Journal
Laura Ryan
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Laura Ryan
Feb. 20, 2014, 7:27 a.m.

A Utah Court handed broad­casters their first ma­jor vic­tory in their leg­al battle with the on­line video ser­vice Aereo, two months be­fore the Su­preme Court will hear a sim­il­ar case.

Aereo uses thou­sands of tiny an­ten­nas — one for each sub­scriber — to stream and re­cord over-the-air TV sig­nals to users, sidestep­ping the ex­pens­ive re­trans­mis­sion fees that cable com­pan­ies pay broad­casters to dis­trib­ute their con­tent. But the U.S. Dis­trict Court in Utah told the on­line video start-up to shut­down its ser­vice in Utah and Col­or­ado on Wed­nes­day, say­ing it was “in­dis­tin­guish­able” from cable TV. 

“Based on the plain lan­guage of the 1976 Copy­right Act and the clear in­tent of Con­gress, this court con­cludes that Aereo is en­ga­ging in copy­right in­fringe­ment of Plaintiffs’ pro­grams,” Judge Dale 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 court gran­ted Aereo’s re­quest to put the law­suit with Fox and loc­al broad­casters on hold un­til the Su­preme Court hears the case, set for April 22.

The on­go­ing leg­al battle is es­sen­tially about wheth­er Aereo’s per­form­ances are pub­lic or private. 

Broad­casters — in­clud­ing Dis­ney, CBS, NB­CUni­ver­sal, Fox, and Uni­vi­sion — have been try­ing to bring Aereo down since it launched in March 2012, su­ing the com­pany in mul­tiple jur­is­dic­tions for steal­ing their con­tent.

But Aereo Founder and CEO Chet Kan­ojia con­tends it does not vi­ol­ate copy­right law be­cause its per­form­ances are private, a view re­cently af­firmed by the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the 2nd Cir­cuit. Kan­ojia was dis­ap­poin­ted by the Utah court’s de­cision to fol­low a “dif­fer­ent path.”

“Con­sumers have a fun­da­ment­al right to watch over-the-air broad­cast tele­vi­sion via an an­tenna and to re­cord cop­ies for their per­son­al use,” Kan­ojia said in a state­ment after the Utah court or­der. “The Copy­right Act provides no jus­ti­fic­a­tion to cur­tail that right simply be­cause the con­sumer is us­ing mod­ern, re­motely loc­ated equip­ment.”

This is a ma­jor set­back for Areo which, un­til now, has aver­ted in­junc­tions in New York and Bo­ston in sim­il­ar law­suits. With Kan­ojia’s bless­ing, the broad­casters ap­pealed the 2nd Cir­cuit Court’s de­cision to the Su­preme Court, which de­cided to take the case last month.

Aereo began of­fer­ing its ser­vices in Utah in Au­gust, and in Den­ver in Oc­to­ber. The start-up cur­rently op­er­ates in 10 cit­ies, and plans to ex­pand after rais­ing $34 mil­lion in fund­ing last month.

What We're Following See More »
CONGRESS BETTER GET ON BOARD
Mnuchin: Expect Tax Overhaul by August
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
‘TOP OF THE PACK’
Trump Looking to Expand Nuclear Arsenal
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
HAD ATTRACTED A CROWD TODAY
Alt-Right Leader Spencer Removed from CPAC
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
RECREATIONAL USERS
White House Promises Crackdown on Pot
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS
SAYS LEFT WILL GO INTO “MELTDOWN”
Cruz Predicts Another SCOTUS Vacancy “This Summer”
14 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login