Aereo's streaming video system is “a textbook case of copyright infringement,” a coalition of TV broadcasters told the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.
The broadcasters are asking the court to uphold an injunction requiring Aereo to immediately cease operations in two markets where it recently launched -- Salt Lake City and Denver. That order, issued last month by U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball, prohibits Aereo from offering its streaming TV service in six Western states.
Last week, Aereo asked the 10th Circuit to stay the order, arguing that the injunction will permanently harm the company's reputation. But the broadcasters say they will be irreparably harmed by Aereo's continued operation, which they argue interferes with broadcasters' relationships with cable and satellite companies, and also “unfairly siphons viewers” from the broadcasters' own Internet streams.
The broadcasters specifically point to Aereo's streams of live sporting events as causing the type of “irreparable harm” that would justify shutting the company down. “At significant expense, Fox Broadcasting Company ... negotiated exclusive Internet streaming rights for the Super Bowl. Aereo interfered with that right by retransmitting the broadcast of the Super Bowl to its subscribers via the Internet,” the broadcasters argue. “March Madness, to which CBS has secured Internet streaming rights, is upcoming, and unless the injunction is left in place, KUTV (Utah’s local CBS channel) will suffer similar concrete and irreparable harm that cannot be compensated in monetary damages.”
Aereo streams over-the-air television programs to paying subscribers' iPads, iPhones and other devices. The company also enables people to “record” programs and watch them later.
Broadcasters say Aereo infringes copyright by transmitting programs without a license. But Aereo says it's legal due to its design, which relies on antennas to capture programs and then stream them to users on an antenna-to-user basis.
Broadcasters have sued Aereo in New York, Boston and Utah; they also have sued Aereo rival FilmOn X -- which says it uses similar technology -- in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. Aereo prevailed at preliminary stages in New York and Boston, but broadcasters convinced judges in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. to prohibit FilmOn X from operating. Kimball's ruling in Utah marked the first time a judge sided with broadcasters against Aereo.
The Supreme Court recently agreed to settle questions about Aereo's legality. That court will hear arguments in April and is expected to issue a ruling by June. Aereo argues that all proceedings in Utah should be stayed until the Supreme Court decides the case.
But the broadcasters say Aereo shouldn't be able to grow its business while awaiting word from the Supreme Court. “Aereo’s position is thus that it should be free to continue its unfettered expansion while Supreme Court review and this appeal are pending, while [broadcasters] ... must wait patiently without any relief in the interim. Aereo’s position is untenable.”
Separately, the Supreme Court on Monday denied a motion by FilmOn X to intervene in the broadcasters' upcoming case against Aereo.