Broadcasters File Suit Against Aereo

Aereo, the fledgling service that looks to use tiny antennae to receive broadcast TV signals and then stream the video to subscribers over the Internet, hasn’t even made its way out of the invite-only beta phase, and already it is the target of lawsuits. Two groups of broadcasters have filed separate federal lawsuits claiming that the service violates the Copyright Act. None of this comes as any surprise. Predictions of lawsuits were rife even as Aereo was being announced and Aereo’s response to the lawsuits came quickly enough to suggest that Aereo’s lawyers already had a pretty good idea of how they were going to respond to the inevitable. The courts have sent mixed signals about how to handle intermediaries in the video delivery process. Will the courts find that Aereo falls more on the side of Cablevision’s remote DVR or on the side of Zedevia’s streaming DVD players?

There have been questions about Aereo’s legality from the start, and now it’s getting a test. So far at least two groups of broadcasters have filed complaints against Aereo. The fundamental question at play? Can Aereo capture free TV from the air for you like a DVR and then post it to the internet so that you can watch it from your computer, your phone, or anywhere else, without violating copyright law.

  • It’s not that the court has

    It’s not that the court has been sending mixed signals, its that in the Zediva case the court had direct precedent adverse to Zediva’s case. (On Command Video Corp. v. Columbia Pictures Indus.)They were essentially dead in the water before they even started. How the court treats the intermediary is directly related to what form of content they are trying to “re-broadcast.” If it is a physical copy of the work, as in zediva, then the service is going to have a very hard time showing that they are not running afoul of the performance rights of the content creator. Whereas if the re-broadcast is merely a re-transmission then its more of a gray area. It will be interesting to see how this case develops.