Aereo to be sued by the broadcasters

Category: WTO Sub-category: Intellectual Property
Document type: news

12-Mar-2012 | 12:45 IST | Edited by: Sharmila Maitra

Aereo, which is scheduled to roll out its new online TV service, reported that a group of broadcasters have filed two separate federal lawsuits against the company, citing likely violation of copyright laws. The lawsuits were filed on 4th of March, 2012.

Aereo said in a blog post the broadcasters have declared that the company will infringe their copyrights by enabling consumers to access broadcast television via a remote antenna and digital video recorder.

Aereo, formerly known as Bamboom Labs, is a Web video service scheduled to launch March 14 in New York .The company plans to take over-the-air TV shows, which are freely available to anyone with an antenna, and stream them to subscribers using the Internet. To do this, the company has built scores of tiny TV antennas (about the size of a fingertip), which are then connected to the Internet. Each Aereo subscriber uses the Web to control his or her own high-tech rabbit ears.

For $12 a month, a subscriber gets Web access to broadcast TV, as well as the ability to record shows. Aereo argues, not very convincingly, that since every user controls their own antenna, the company is not a distributor and doesn't have to pay for retransmission fees.

According to PC Mag, Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Television, Univision, PBS, and two local New York TV stations who filed a suit against Aereo in a New York district court, charging the start-up with copyright violations due to unauthorised rebroadcast and reproductions, as well as unfair competition.

A second suit was filed later in the day against Aereo, by ABC, Disney, CBS, NBC Universal, Universal Network Television, and Telemundo, charging Aereo with one count of copyright infringement. The suits were filed before Aereo's service begins operating on 14 March. Both seek a permanent injunction preventing Aereo from operating, plus damages.

TV stations have the right under federal law to force satellite and cable TV operators to negotiate for the right to transmit stations' over-the-air signals to customers.

In recent years, pay TV operators have increasingly paid rates of as much as $1 a month per subscriber. Aereo, of New York City, said it did not plan to pay any such fee to the broadcasters.

Aereo in its defense said, "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 ("DVRs"), have made access to television easier and better for consumers," in a blog post, regarding the lawsuits.  "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."