Aereo files appeal in networks suit


AereoThe legal battle between major broadcast networks and Barry Diller’s Aereo local broadcast streaming service has gotten a little more heightened: Aereo filed a brief with the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. According to the 84-page briefing filed 10/19, Aereo’s position in this case is almost identical to Cablevision’s in the mid-2000s, when the cable provider won a case against major broadcast networks after being sued for a cloud-based remote DVR system.

This comes just a few months after a U.S. district Judge for the Southern District of New York denied a preliminary injunction against Aereo, which would have essentially shut down the service before it even fully launched. Aereo is trying go get the Appeals Court to end the case once and for all, notes TechCrunch.

From the filing:

    Indeed, contrary to what may be the view of certain Appellants [the broadcast networks], copyright laws were never intended to be used to confine consumers to outdated technology. The reality is that the networks fought VCRs, and they fought remote DVRs, and they lost in both cases. This is simply another attempt to preserve the status quo as a business matter without regard to fundamental copyright principles….Finally, both Appellants and amici argue that the Aereo technology is an “artifice” or some clever attempt to get around copyright law. Essentially, Appellants are arguing that Aereo carefully designed its system to comply with Cablevision. There is considerable irony in Appellants’ suggestion that Aereo is somehow culpable because it carefully designed its system to comply with copyright law.

However, in an amicus brief 9/21 in federal court in New York, Cablevision Systems said Aereo’s service violates copyright laws, so this is all getting a bit convoluted. What makes this filing significant is that it is a legal victory Cablevision scored against the TV industry that Aereo has cited in making the case that its service does not violate copyright law.

Aereo is a service that transmits the signals of local broadcast stations via the Internet to smartphones, tablets and Internet-friendly TVs. Aereo charges subscribers a monthly fee of $12 for a small antenna that receives broadcast signals and a remote digital video recorder that can hold up to 40 hours of shows. So far, Aereo is only in NYC.

CBS, NBC, Fox and Univision — are trying to shut Aereo down, claiming the service violates copyright laws and disrupts their revenue model. The parties filed a preliminary injunction to shut it down in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

The Cablevision case claimed that since the remote DVR service only transmitted an individual’s unique copy of the content, which was controlled only by that user, Cablevision was not infringing on the broadcasters’ copyrighted content. In fact, everything was exactly the same as the original DVR service except that the content was stored in the cloud instead of on a DVR box hard drive in the user’s living room.

The same is true for Aereo, according to the briefing. Aereo users stream live content from free, over-the-air signals through a licensed mini-antenna. Because Aereo users transmit a single, unique copy through an individual user account, Aereo argues that this should not be seen as copyright infringement.

Aereo argues that the involvement of the internet, or mobile devices, or the distance between the antenna and the user makes no difference in the case. These advances have no bearing on the copyright law.

The Southern District Court of New York, which has been presiding over this copyright case, agreed with certain aspects of this argument when it first denied the preliminary injunction. Aereo is now using that ruling to further plead its case to the Appeals Court, saying that the Cablevision ruling would essentially have to be overturned in order to consider Aereo guilty.

See the TechCrunch story here