Broadcasters Say Aereo Not Entitled To Cable License, Seek Nationwide Shutdown Order

A coalition of television broadcasters is asking a judge to prohibit Aereo from operating its streaming video service anywhere in the country.

The broadcasters say the Supreme Court's recent decision against Aereo requires the company to shut down. The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo infringes copyright by streaming over-the-air programs to subscribers' smartphones and tablets.

“Aereo is an adjudicated infringer. It has been trampling on Plaintiffs’ copyrights for over two years and has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in subscriber fees while doing so,” the broadcasters say in papers filed late Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan. “Plaintiffs are entitled to an injunction protecting their rights.”

Aereo voluntarily suspended operations after that decision came out. But the company says it hopes to soon resume operations -- this time as a cable operator.

Until it suspended service this summer, Aereo streamed over-the-air television programs to paying subscribers' smartphones, tablets and other devices. The company also allowed people to record shows and watch them later.

Between 2012 and this year, Aereo rolled out its service to 11 markets; the company only let people stream shows that were available over-the-air in their current geographic locations.

Aereo argued that its service didn't infringe copyright due to its technological architecture, which relied on thousands of mini-antennas to capture and stream shows. Aereo argued that each stream was a “private” performance, because it was made on an antenna-to-user basis.

But the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo's service publicly performed programs regardless of its back-end technology. The court said in its decision that Aereo resembled a cable system, which can't retransmit programs without paying fees.

Aereo now takes the position that the Supreme Court's rationale supports the company's argument that it's entitled to a compulsory cable license under Section 111 of the Copyright Act.

But the broadcasters counter that Aereo isn't a cable system, even if it's “similar” to one.

“Aereo now claims, based on a misreading of the Supreme Court’s opinion, that it is a 'cable system,'” the broadcasters say in their papers. “Aereo is wrong. The Supreme Court did not hold that Aereo is a 'cable system' under Section 111 of the Copyright Act or that it is entitled to a Section 111 license.”

The television companies point out in their papers that satellite providers -- which also resemble cable systems -- weren't eligible for compulsory licenses until Congress passed new laws.

The Supreme Court ruling only addressed Aereo's real-time streams, and not its cloud-based DVR service. But the broadcasters are now seeking an order prohibiting Aereo from operating its DVR service as well as its live streams. “Even with a time delay, Aereo’s service still involves retransmitting contemporaneously-perceptible images and sounds of plaintiffs’ programs to the public without authorization,” the broadcasters argue.

Aereo is expected to submit a response by Aug. 29.

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