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Aereo wins first legal round against broadcasters

July 11, 2012|By Joe Flint
  • Barry Diller is a backer of Aereo.
Barry Diller is a backer of Aereo. (Bloomberg )

Aereo, a media company that offers broadcast programming via the Internet, scored a victory in what promises to be a long legal battle with CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and other broadcasters.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York denied a request from a coalition of broadcasters seeking a preliminary injunction against Aereo, which launched last spring in New York City. The broadcasters are arguing that Aereo's retransmission of their signals is a violation of copyright law.

Aereo, whose backers include media mogul Barry Diller, is a distribution service that provides access to broadcast TV signals via smartphones, tablets and Internet-friendly TVs. Aereo provides a tiny antenna that can pick up the signals of broadcasters. The company charges $12 a month and in return customers get the antenna and a digital video recorder in the sky that can hold up to 40 hours of programming.

While Nathan said the broadcasters showed that their business could be harmed by Aereo, she said Aereo's service does not violate copyright law.

In ruling in favor of Aereo, Nathan cited a U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld that a remote DVR service offered by Cablevision did not violate copyright law. If not for that ruling, she said, "plaintiffs would likely prevail on their request for a preliminary injunction."

“I'm happy the judge denied the injunction, and now we can really begin telling television consumers they have an alternative," Diller said in a statement.

The broadcasters downplayed the win and promised an appeal and an argument that the Cablevision case does not apply here.

"This case is not over by a long shot," CBS said in a statement. "We intend to immediately appeal this decision to the Second Circuit and seek expedited consideration."

A Fox spokesman said the decision is a "loss for the entire creative community" but not the end of the game. "We will continue to fight to protect our copyrights and expect to prevail on appeal."


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