Aereo, the startup that streams broadcast TV signals over the Internet, scored another victory in federal court Thursday when a district court judge in Massachusetts denied Hearst Television’s request to shut the service down — potentially leading to a showdown between broadcasters and Aereo before the Supreme Court.
The court, however, denied Aereo’s request to move the case to New York, where the startup is facing another lawsuit against major broadcasters.
“The court was right to keep this case in Boston, the home of WCVB-TV,” a station rep said in a statement. “We will immediately appeal the court’s decision that allows Aereo to continue to engage in a commercial business that unlawfully profits by using WCVB’s copyrighted broadcasts and shows. We expect to prevail in this case.”
In a statement, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said, “Today’s victory belongs to the consumer and today’s decision, makes clear that that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television. Using Aereo, a consumer can simply and easily use an individual remote antenna and cloud DVR via the Internet to record and watch-over-the air program.”
As Variety first reported, major broadcasters that are suing Aereo for copyright infringement plan to petition the U.S. Supreme Court by Oct. 15 to review lower court rulings denying their bid to stop Aereo from distributing their programming.
Heart’s ABC affiliate WCVB filed suit in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against Aereo in July, claiming copyright infringement in that Aereo “intentionally induces and encourages its subscribers to directly infringe WCVB’s copyrights by reproducing programming without authorization.” In the ruling Thursday, District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton denied Heart’s request for a preliminary injunction that would have blocked Aereo, saying the broadcaster did not make its case that it would be likely to succeed on the merits of its claims.
The latest ruling comes after broadcasters were denied requests to block Aereo by a New York district court last year. In July, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider the ruling.
Aereo has prevailed, so far, by relying on a court decision upholding the legality of Cablevision’s network-based DVR system. Like the Cablevision system, Aereo has argued, it is simply hosting antennas and DVR storage infrastructure that its users control remotely. Broadcasters contend Aereo must pay retransmission fees just like cable, satellite and telco TV providers.
Meanwhile, Aereo faces another lawsuit in Utah. In that complaint, as in other previous challenges, three local broadcasters and Fox Broadcasting allege that Aereo violates the public performance clause of the Copyright Act.
Aereo separately said it plans to introduce an Android-based app for accessing the service on Oct. 22.
To date, Aereo — whose backers include IAC chairman Barry Diller — has rolled out service in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Miami, Houston and Dallas. In addition, Aereo plans to expand to four more cities — Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; and San Antonio, Texas — with launch dates for those markets to be announced.
Aereo, which has just over 100 employees, has raised $63 million from investors including IAC, FirstMark Capital, First Round Capital, Highland Capital Partners and High Line Venture Partners.