A few weeks back a new subscription TV service called Aereo was announced to help you cut your cable connection and free the shows you like to watch to go where you want to watch them. The company planned to use thousands of tiny antennas that were connected to the web to stream the OTA content. The company hopes to launch on March 14 streaming free over the air content to phones, tablets, and computers for $12 a month. The service also has cloud-based DVR that gave viewers the ability to pause shows.
I don’t think any of us will be surprised to hear that broadcasters are suing to stop the service from launching. The suit was filed in a Manhattan court by Fox, Univision, and PBS. The broadcasters claim that Aereo is infringing on copyrights that they hold. Broadcasters were certain to fight the new service since they have worked to squeeze fees out of cable channels broadcasting their content for years.
Aereo says that it has a plan to get around legal challenges. That plan hinges on a distinction between transmitting to one or many viewers. Apparently, Cablevision used a similar defense for its remote DVR after an appeals court ruled that the service didn’t transmit to the public since each individual subscriber was connected to their own remote DVR. Each individual Aereo user will be connected to their own dime-sized antenna. Since the original suit was filed, other broadcasters including ABC have joined the fray. The broadcasters want damages and a permanent injunction against the service.
The broadcasters claim, “It simply does not matter whether Aereo uses one big antenna to receive Plaintiffs’ broadcasts .. or ‘tons’ of ‘tiny’ antennas .. No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo or claims of sophisticated ‘rabbit ears’ change the fundamental principle of copyright.”