The four biggest television networks filed a 59-page brief Monday to the Supreme Court detailing how online video startup Aereo is essentially stealing their programming and undermining their business model.

Broadcasters argued that Aereo, which provides broadcast TV shows to subscribers over the Internet without paying licensing fees to stations, is violating federal copyright law designed to protect content creators and distributors. Aereo has denied violating broadcasters’ copyrights through its unique  online delivery system, although the company joined broadcasters in asking the Supreme Court to review the case.

Aereo offers access to local broadcast channels over the Internet, skirting around federal rules by renting subscribers remote access to programming and cloud-based DVRs via tiny antenna farms.

The case is being closely watching by the media industry and Wall Street because a win by Aereo could undermine the TV industry’s business model of charging pay-television companies fees for the rights to rebroadcast local TV stations. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC nod to that issue in their filing:

A ruling against Aereo would pose no threat to innovative online-distribution services such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon.  Those services, after all, pay for the right to use copyrighted content.…A ruling for Aereo, by contrast, would be deeply problematic:  It would launch a race by cable and satellite companies to develop competing methods to capture copyrighted content and re-sell it without paying for the right to do so. That would give broadcasters little choice but to reconsider the quality and quantity of programs they broadcast for free over the air.

In November, the National Football League and Major League Baseball made similar arguments in a filing in support of broadcasters. The sports leagues warned that Aereo or similar services would undercut their ability to license their games exclusively to certain stations or services (like DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket football subscription). 

“The option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorization,” the leagues warned in their brief.

NBC, which is part of this suit, is an investor in Re/code.

Aereo has won a series of battles in lower courts, but it suffered a legal setback last week, when a federal judge in Utah found in favor of broadcasters in a similar case and granted a preliminary injunction to prevent Aereo’s service from being offered in six western states. The order was stayed pending the Supreme Court’s review.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the Aereo case on April 22 with a decision likely in June.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Aereo announced plans to expand its service to Austin in March. The service is already available in nine areas, with 17 more set to come online soon.


Aereo is just providing another version of what people can get via their own rabbit ears. I have an antenna, so I don't need to pay Aereo. But antennas on personal tvs don't work for everyone because of environmental conditions. If they can't get aereo, they'll just do without or watch tv on their computers pushed to tv or whatever. These people have cut the cord, or are paying to get MORE local stations than their cable provider gives them. My satellite provider gave me only a few local stations for about $6/month. With my rabbit ears, I get about 20! I had no idea we had this many local stations.


So the networks are basically saying, "Sure, we wanted all these TV broadcast licenses, but it undermines our model for people to actually watch over-the-air."

They should just turn in their broadcast licenses if they don't want them, and let someone else try their hand at broadcast TV.


This is just another reason why the networks should allow subscriptions to their product so that i can subscribe to what i want not what the pipeline people want to charge me for.  i am paying for internet access, i can and should be allowed to pay for what i want to see via that access.  i don't need it to be realtime, as via the over the air  and via cable "live" feeds but on demand when i want to see it.  Like reading a book or viewing a DVD, lemme buy it and use it and when i am done throw it away or review it on demand.  whotta concept.  like like buying a music CD or a mp3 file.


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