"Aereo captures the broadcast signals of local television stations in Utah and retransmits them over the Internet to paying subscribers,” affiliates of CBS and Fox argue in papers filed late last week with U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer. “Aereo is committing copyright infringement by publicly performing the copyrighted programs contained in these signals without authorization from the copyright owners.”
The fast-growing Aereo, which is backed by Barry Diller, allows paying subscribers to stream over-the-air TV shows to iPhones and other devices. The company also enables people to “record” shows and watch them later.
TV broadcasters contend that Aereo is “publicly” performing the shows -- which would infringe copyright. But Aereo counters that its service is legal due to its design, which relies on thousands of tiny antennas to capture and stream over-the-air TV shows. The company streams shows to users on an antenna-to-user basis. Aereo says it has the same legal rights as consumers to capture over-the-air signals. The company also says its streams are “private” performances -- as opposed to public ones -- because each stream comes from a separate antenna.
A federal appellate court in New York agreed with Aereo, ruling that the company complies with copyright law due to its technology. “Technical architecture matters,” the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said in its ruling.
But the broadcasters argue that Aereo is infringing copyright despite its antenna system. “Frankly, it is difficult to imagine how Congress could have been any more clear that technical architecture does not matter,” they argue.
These latest court papers were filed in a lawsuit brought by Community Television of Utah -- which operates KSTU (Fox), KUTV (CBS) and KMYU (My Network TV). That case is one of several lawsuits pending hroughout the country involving Aereo and its competitor, FilmOn X.
So far, Aereo has fended off broadcasters' requests to prohibit the service, but broadcasters have obtained injunctions banning FilmOn X from operating anywhere in the country except New York, Vermont and Connecticut.