Commentary

Aereo Gaining Momentum In Court, Expands To New Cities

The streaming video service Aereo must be feeling pretty confident this week. Even though the company is facing court battles in New York and Boston, it announced that it plans to bring its service to four new cities -- Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and San Antonio.

The company already operates in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Miami, Houston and Dallas. It also previously said it would roll out service in a host of other cities throughout much of the country.

The Barry Diller-backed Aereo, like its competitor FilmOn X, streams over-the-air TV programs to iPhones and other devices. The services also allow people to “record” shows for later viewing.

The cord-cutting services are hailed as innovative and consumer-friendly by digital rights groups. But TV networks aren't fans of the startups. The broadcasters say that Aereo (and FilmOn X) violate copyright law by transmitting programs without licenses.

The startups counter that their services are legal based on their design, which relies on thousands of small antennas to capture free over-the-air programs and stream them to users.

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Already, Aereo has all but won the lawsuit in New York, where the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the service can continue to operate. While that ruling is only preliminary -- meaning that there hasn't yet been a full trial in the case -- the court's opinion left no doubt that a majority of judges believe the service is legal.

Aereo also looks likely to prevail in Boston, where U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton said at a hearing last week that he's inclined to allow Aereo to continue operating. Gorton said he expects to issue a written decision by the end of this month. If, as expected, he sides with Aereo, the company will have even more momentum on its side as it preps a larger rollout of its service.

FilmOn X hasn't made out as well in court so far, given that a judge in California and Washington, D.C. have ruled against the company. The company has appealed both decisions.

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