Is Aereo Illegal?

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Aereo is a new take on Internet TV. The company has created miniature HD TV antennas and placed thousands of them in a data center in NYC, and provides an internet connection to a specific antenna for each of its clients. They believe that this is equivalent to each individual having an HD TV antenna on their own roof.

Aereo antenna

They went live in February, and announced that they will be providing the service to clients in NYC in March: and bang!

Our Response | Aereo Blog

Today, two groups of broadcasters filed two separate federal lawsuits against Aereo in the Southern District of New York claiming that Aereo will infringe their copyrights by making available technology which enables consumers to access broadcast television via a remote antenna and DVR.  Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues.

Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use.   Innovations in technology over time, from digital signals to Digital Video Recorders (“DVRs”), have made access to television easier and better for consumers.   Aereo provides technology that enables consumers to use their cloud DVR and their remote antenna to record and watch the broadcast television signal to which they are entitled anywhere they are, whether on a phone, a tablet, a television or a laptop.

Aereo very much looks forward to its upcoming product launch as well as a prompt resolution of these cases.

The TV stations involved want Aereo to be considered like a satellite or cable operator:

Christopher Stewart via WSJ

TV stations have the right under federal law to force satellite and cable-TV operators to negotiate for the right to transmit stations’ over-the-air signals to customers. In recent years, pay-TV operators have increasingly paid rates of as much as $1 a month per subscriber. Aereo, of New York City, said it didn’t plan to pay any such fee to the broadcasters.

The suits argue that Aereo is violating copyright law at least in part because it is reformatting and retransmitting the networks’ TV signals. One suit says Aereo’s contention that it is renting antennae to consumers who are doing the rebroadcasting is a “fiction.” The other said it “simply does not matter whether Aereo uses one big antenna” or “tons of ‘tiny’ antennas.”

The networks blocked Ivi TV in court, a company that was using a single TV antenna, and pushing out TV signals without paying the stations, and they are trying to make that case that Aereo is just like that.

This one is fascinating, but in a sense Aereo is a workaround: a temporary intermediate stage in the rise of web TV.

TFA Team

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