Broadcasters sue Aereo streaming service

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Not entirely unexpectedly, two groups of broadcasters are suing Aereo, the recently-launched streamed television service.

Aereo delivers broadcast TV directly to phones, tablets, and televisions in New York City, for $12 per month. It gives access to all  major networks, including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW and PBS, as well as local channels, and can store up to 40 hours of programming.

It says it's been able to avoid legal restrictions on the retransmission of content by giving customers their own, personal antenna. So far, Aero's been available only by invitation, but is due to open more widely in just over a week's time.

Now, though, two groups of broadcasters, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the local PBS station, have challenged this, filing suits in federal court to claim that the service infringes their copyright.

They dismiss the one-antenna-each argument as 'an artifice'

"No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo - or claims that it is simply providing a sophisticated set of 'rabbit ears' - changes the fundamental principle of copyright law that those who swish to retransmit Plaintiffs' broadcasts may do so only with Plaintiffs authority," reads one of the suits, filed in the Southern District of New York.

"Simply put, Aereo is an unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting and retransmitting broadcast signals to its subscribers for a fee."

Aero says it's confident that the broadcasters are on shaky ground.

"Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use. Innovations in technology over time, from digital signals to digital video recorders, have made access to television easier and better for consumers," it says in a statement.

"Aereo provides technology that enables consumers to use their cloud DVR and their remote antenna to record and watch the broadcast television signal to which they are entitled anywhere they are, whether on a phone, a tablet, a television or a laptop."

The National Association of Broadcasters says it supports the lawsuits.

"NAB strongly supports today's legal action against Aereo. Copyright and TV signal protections promote a robust local broadcasting system that serves tens of millions of Americans every day with high quality news, entertainment, sports and emergency weather information," says executive vice president of communications Dennis Wharton.

"A plaintiffs' win in this case will ensure the continued availability of this programming to the viewing public."