updated 10:35 pm EDT, Wed July 11, 2012
Judge says law requires she reject broadcasters' request
A judge ruled today that New York startup Aereo must be allowed to continue sending live television programming to iPhones and other mobile devices in the city. Networks including ABC, NBC, and CBS had sued Aereo for copyright infringement, accusing the company of illegally copying and retransmitting their programming over the Internet. In her decision, Bloomberg reports, Judge Alison Nathan said she understood how Aereo's practices could be unfair to the broadcasters, but the law left her no option other than to allow Aereo to continue transmitting.
For $12 a month, Aereo customers can stream television programs from Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC, and other networks over the Internet to their iPhones, iPads, and computers. Aereo contends that its service simply offers an alternative platform for TV watching, and that the company only lets users rent a remotely-located antenna to receive programming they could get for free at home.
The broadcasters, though, argue that Aereo's service constitutes a "public performance" of their protected material and, as such, is infringing. They requested that the court rule for a preliminary injunction barring Aereo from retransmitting their material.
In her opinion, Nathan said that the networks hadn't proved that they would be harmed by Aereo's operations continuing during the length of the litigation. The judge agreed that the broadcasters would likely suffer harm due to her ruling, as it would affect their ability to negotiate with advertisers and their relationships with affiliates. Aereo's size and scope, though, meant that the damage suffered by the broadcasters during the trial would not be overwhelming.
As this was a preliminary hearing, the case against Aereo will still go on. The broadcasters are expected to appeal the court's ruling immediately. The outlook for Aereo is uncertain. Other services have taken up TV streaming only to lose in litigation. Ivi, another Internet rebroadcaster, was shut down last year by a federal judge in New York. Oral arguments to appeal that decision were heard in May.