The broadcasters are asking the Supreme Court to shut down Aereo, a service that enables people to watch over-the-air television programs on iPhones, iPads and other devices. Broadcasters argue that Aereo infringes copyright by retransmitting programs without licenses. Aereo counters that it is legal due to its design, which relies on tiny antennas to capture and stream the shows.
So far, broadcasters have failed to convince any federal courts that Aereo is unlawful. A district court judge in New York rejected the broadcasters' request to prohibit Aereo from operating, as did her counterpart in Boston.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals -- the only appellate court to consider the issue to date -- also ruled that Aereo could continue to operate. Last month, the Supreme Court agreed to consider the broadcasters' appeal of that ruling.
The scheduling calendar released by the Supreme Court today also shows that Justice Samuel Alito won't participate in the decision, meaning that only eight judges will decide Aereo's fate. If they split 4-4, the status quo continues and Aereo will be able to continue operating. The Supreme Court is likely to issue a decision by no later than June.
Meanwhile, broadcasters are still pressing a federal judge in Utah to immediately ban Aereo from operating within the 10th Circuit -- which covers Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.
U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball held a hearing in Utah today, despite Aereo's request to put the case on hold pending a decision by the Supreme Court. Kimball reserved decision at the conclusion of the hearing.
Fox recently said in a statement that it is “hopeful” that it the court in Utah will enjoin Aereo. But it seems unlikely that Kimball will want to issue a decision any time soon, given that the Supreme Court is slated to rule on the case before the summer.