The broadcasters are asking the court to hear their appeal of the 2nd Circuit's decision to allow Aereo to continue operating while a lawsuit against it is pending. They argue that Aereo infringes copyright by retransmitting programs without a license.
“This Court's intervention is urgently needed,” the broadcasters state. They add that the 2nd Circuit's decision “imperils” the “viability of over-the-air broadcast television.”
Aereo, backed by Barry Diller, offers a paid service that streams live over-the-air TV shows to the iPhones, iPads and other devices. The company also provides DVR-like functionality, enabling people to “record” shows and watch them later.
Last year, soon after Aereo launched in New York, the major TV broadcasters filed a copyright lawsuit against the company in federal court. The TV networks say that Aereo infringes copyright by retransmitting programs without a license.
Aereo argues that its system is legal due to its architecture, which uses thousands of tiny antennas to capture and stream over-the-air broadcasts. Aereo says it has the same legal rights as consumers to capture over-the-air signals.
The networks argue that the streams are public performances, which can only be authorized by a copyright holder. But Aereo counters that its streams are private, because they are made on an antenna-to-user basis.
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan in New York refused to issue an injunction banning Aereo from operating. A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit upheld that decision earlier this year, ruling that the start-up's system doesn't infringe the TV networks' right to publicly perform programs.
The broadcasters say the 2nd Circuit's decision is incorrect. “This should have been a straightforward case,” the TV companies say in their Supreme Court petition. “It is undisputed that Aereo is in the business of retransmitting broadcast television to thousands of members of the public, and has not obtained authorization to do so. That should have been the end of the matter.”
The TV companies also say that Aereo is harming broadcasters' business model by encouraging cord-cutting -- which decreases retransmission fees paid by cable companies and satellite providers. The broadcasters add that some cable and satellite companies are now questioning why they should pay licensing fees when Aereo doesn't.
“Time Warner Cable ... has threatened to develop its own Aereo-like system to avoid compensating copyright owners and broadcasters for the use of their programming,” the broadcasters say.