Broadcast television networks ask Supreme Court to stop Aereo

By George Chidi
Saturday, October 12, 2013 20:18 EDT
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Al-Jazeera America television broadcast studio (AFP)
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The four major broadcast television networks are taking their case against cord-cutting startup Aereo to the U.S. Supreme Court after failing to win a preliminary injunction Friday against the firm facing their copyright infringement suit.

Federal Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled in favor of Aereo Friday, denying the Hearst-owned local ABC affiliate’s motion for a preliminary injunction to keep Aereo from retransmitting content gained from its signal to Aereo subscribers.

“Hearst has not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits nor the requisite irreparable harm and therefore it is not entitled to that ‘extraordinary and drastic remedy,’” Gorton wrote. “After a careful review and analysis of the claims advanced by plaintiff, the Court stated that, “Hearst fails to make a sufficient showing that it is likely to prevail on any of [its] claims and therefore this factor weighs against a preliminary injunction in its favor.”

Aereo places an array of antennas to capture the signals of broadcasters from the air, then streams those signals to its subscribers for about $8 a month. While Aereo remains the subject of several lawsuits, none have yet managed to shut the company down.

“Today’s victory belongs to the consumer and today’s decision, makes clear that that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television,” Aereo said in a statement following the ruling. “Using Aereo, a consumer can simply and easily use an individual remote antenna and cloud DVR via the Internet to record and watch-over-the air programs.”

Broadcasters see Aereo’s business model a bit differently. They view Aereo as a pirate, re-broadcasting their content without paying for it. ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC all fear that cable and satellite companies may view Aereo’s legal successes as a green light to reengineering their own delivery systems and cut the broadcasters out of being paid cable retransmission fees.

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