Broadcasters ask high court to intervene with Aereo


AereoWhile we reported they were planning on petitioning the Supreme Court on 10/10, it’s now official: The broadcasters, that include ABC, NBC, CBS Corp. and 21st Century Fox, are appealing a ruling earlier this year by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which denied their request to shut down the fee-based service.The broadcasters argue that Aereo, which streams local TV signals over the web without their permission, violates their copyrights. Aereo has denied that its technology infringes.

The circuit court’s decision “is already transforming the industry and threatening the very fundamentals of broadcast television,” the broadcasters wrote in the petition.

“We will respond, as appropriate, in due course,” an Aereo spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

If it takes up the case—which is far from certain—the Supreme Court could have a major hand in shaping how TV is distributed over the Internet. A decision could have major implications for media companies at a time when they are struggling to cater to growing interest in online video.

If the high court chooses not to take the case and leaves the matter to lower courts that so far have sided with Aereo, the streaming service could be in a stronger position as it continues its expansion.

“The longer Aereo is left unchecked, the more it can roll out its service,” David Wittenstein, head of the media and information technology practice at DC law firm Dow Lohnes, told WSJ. “If Aereo gets a lot of customers in a lot of places, it begins to be harder to shut it down.”

Aereo is now available in seven markets including New York, Boston and Atlanta and plans to reach 22 cities by the end of the year. The company will offer an Android mobile app this month.

The Supreme Court only takes up a small slice of the appeals filed. But the conflicting legal decisions in lower courts over Aereo and a similar service, FilmOn X, could provide grounds for the apex court to intervene, legal experts say.

See the Wall Street Journal story here.