Streaming television service Aereo has been forced to shut down -- at least for now -- in Salt Lake City and Denver.
A panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said on Friday that it voted 2-1 to preserve an earlier ruling shuttering the service down in six western states. The move means that Aereo can't continue to stream TV shows in those states, including Colorado and Utah, where it had already signed up thousands of subscribers.
“Aereo has not made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal,” the appellate panel said in its order. “We therefore deny Aereo’s emergency motion to stay the preliminary injunction pending appeal.”
Aereo took to Twitter to announce the news, saying that “for the time being” it would stop providing service in Salt Lake City and Denver. A company spokeswoman later added that Aereo believes its technology “falls squarely within the law.”
She also said the company is looking forward to presenting its case to the Supreme Court.
Broadcasters who are suing Aereo recently asked the Supreme Court to shut down Aereo. They argue that the Barry Diller-backed startup infringes copyright by streaming television shows to people's iPhones, iPads and other devices without a license. The broadcasters say these streams are “public” performances, which require licenses.
For its part, Aereo says its service is legal due to its architecture, which relies on thousands of tiny antennas to capture over-the-air television and then stream shows to people. The company says the streams are “private,” because each stream comes from a separate antenna.
Obviously, legal experts have different views about Aereo's legality -- as shown by the different results to date in the lawsuits: Judges in two circuits -- the 2nd (which covers New York) and 1st (which covers Boston) have ruled in Aereo's favor, while judges in the 10th (which includes Utah) have ruled against the service.
Of course, all of those rulings are only relevant until the Supreme Court speaks on the matter. That court will hear arguments on April 22 and is expected to issue a ruling in June.
Given the high stakes, it makes sense that the upcoming Supreme Court showdown has drawn much outside interest, with a range of groups filing friend-of-the-court briefs. Last week, the Obama administration sided with the broadcasters, as did some entertainment companies, sports leagues and other outside organizations.
Among the companies asking the court to shut down Aereo are Time Warner and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Time Warner argues that Aereo's argument is at odds with the “most basic principles of copyright law, and practical common sense.”
The entertainment giant adds: “With the help of some clever lawyering, Aereo, a commercial enterprise with no copyright license, is allowed to set up a business where it charges money for making up to millions of copies of a television show and transmitting those copies to millions of people.”
Aereo and its supporters are expected to file their arguments within the next several weeks.