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Judge: NY startup can stream live TV to iPhones

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.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09

    Now, wait just a minute. If the action is damaging the broadcasters, but they are unlikely to suffer because of the scope, then the usual verdict is guilty, but with damages set to zero (or very low). Much though I dislike TV networks, I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with the whole "oh, hey, yes, they're wrong, but I'm going to set a precedent that it's okay because you aren't hurt YET".

  1. hayesk

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 09-17-99

    Networks' business models are to broadcast for free, supported by advertising. This service just changes the broadcast protocol and tunnels it through the Internet. As long as the customers are within the geographical area, then what's the problem? It's equivalent to them carrying around portable TVs.

  1. odowd80

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-21-09

    Interpreting the law isn't solely based on whether or not someone will suffer financially from the outcome of the decision. Clearly, if the judge ruled against Aereo, that would damage THEM financially. The judge determined that what they are doing is legal, exactly what she is supposed to do. I live in an area where over-the-air reception is unavailable, which is financially damaging to ME.

  1. elroth

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-05-06

    Originally Posted by The VicarView Post

    Now, wait just a minute. If the action is damaging the broadcasters, but they are unlikely to suffer because of the scope, then the usual verdict is guilty, but with damages set to zero (or very low). Much though I dislike TV networks, I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with the whole "oh, hey, yes, they're wrong, but I'm going to set a precedent that it's okay because you aren't hurt YET".



    This wasn't the trial, at which time there will be a verdict. This is on a request to shut down Aereo BEFORE a trial. By law, The networks couldn't show that they would suffer significant harm between now and the trial, so by law the judge can't shut the service down. The judge's comments are not a ruling on the case - the trial has yet to begin.

  1. elroth

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-05-06

    Originally Posted by odowd80View Post

    Interpreting the law isn't solely based on whether or not someone will suffer financially from the outcome of the decision. Clearly, if the judge ruled against Aereo, that would damage THEM financially. The judge determined that what they are doing is legal, exactly what she is supposed to do. I live in an area where over-the-air reception is unavailable, which is financially damaging to ME.



    Again, this is not a ruling on the case - the judge has NOT determined that Aereo's service is legal, only that the networks won't be unduly harmed if Aereo continues to operate until the actual trial begins. At that time, it may well be that Aereo is found to be illegal and must shut down (and maybe pay damages as well).

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