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Invigorated by its win in April, Aereo has filed for summary judgment in the case that examines the legality of its services in addition to filing suit against broadcasters that have been trying to halt its growth outside of the New York market.
Aereo is a technology company, currently limited to the New York City Area, that allows subscribers to view live as well as time-shifted streams of over-the air television on the Internet. It allows users to watch and record over the internet by renting their own small antenna and hard drive space at the Aereo facility. Thus, when users log in at home, they can watch live or recorded television on their computers.
Soon after its initial launch in New York City in February 2012, several major broadcasters (including CBS, Comcast’s NBC, Disney’s ABC, and Newscorp’s Fox) sued Aereo for copyright infringement. On April 1, 2013, a federal appeals court found in favor of Aereo, holding that Aereo’s streams to subscribers were not “public performances.” Therefore, it had not committed copyright infringement. Following this victory, Aereo announced plans to expand to 22 markets in the coming months, even though its legal problems were seemingly far from over.
Aereo argues that it is simply giving consumers what they want. Specifically, it targets younger consumers who do not want to pay expensive cable bills for bundles of programming they do not watch. However, the networks argue that since they are not getting paid for their signals (even though consumers are paying a fee to Aereo), Aereo is essentially stealing from them. Yet, Aereo argues that it could actually be helping these companies in the long run. Broadcasters make most of their money from advertising. Thus, if Aereo helps expand the audience for cable stations, broadcasters could charge more for ad space, increasing ad revenue. From its point of view, it is helping broadcasters transition their broadcasting into a new medium and attract a new generation of viewers, not hurting broadcasters’ subscription fees.
In the next phase of its legal battles following the April ruling, Aereo has come out swinging. In addition to filing a summary judgment motion in its case against the major broadcasters, Aereo has preemptively sued CBS in New York, seeking a declaratory judgment that its technology does not infringe on the broadcaster’s copyrights in Boston. It is now seeking a permanent injunction against CBS and its licensing entities. The questions are whether a New York judge will grant an injunction to stop broadcasters from seeking actions in other jurisdictions or whether CBS will seek to have the case transferred to Boston (for more favorable law).
Thus, even if Aereo wins its case as a defendant in New York, unless it wins its subsequent case, it will still have to fight off lawsuits from broadcasters each time it enters a new jurisdiction.
Will Aereo win its summary judgment motion? Will it prevail in its permanent injunction against CBS?
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