Aereo's streak of legal victories over the broadcasting industry has come to an end.
The startup company, which sends broadcast television signals to consumers via the Internet, will have to shut down its operations in Utah and Colorado thanks to a ruling by the U.S. District Court in Utah.
The ruling, which covers the 10th Circuit, grants a request for preliminary injunction against Aereo that was sought by Fox Broadcasting Co. and other TV station owners.
The decision comes about two months before the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments from the major broadcast networks that Aereo should be shut down because it illegally steals their copyright.
Broadcasters are asking the high court to overturn an earlier decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York, which said that Aereo's transmissions and recordings are not "public performances" of copyrighted material.
The Utah ruling is important because it is the first a court has sided with broadcasters in their fight against Aereo.
"This is a significant win for both broadcasters and content owners," a Fox spokesman said in a statement.
Fox, along with
Launched in 2012 and backed by media mogul
Broadcasters argue that they need to be compensated by Aereo otherwise it is engaging in copyright theft. The fear is that if Aereo grows in popularity it could threaten distribution fees broadcasters get from pay-TV distributors including cable and satellite companies.
are also engaged in a legal battle with Aereo.
In the 26-page ruling, Judge Dale Kimball said the broadcasters made the case that their fight against Aereo will succeed on the merits.
"Based on the plain language of the 1976 Copyright Act and the clear intent of
Aereo Founder Chet Kanojia said the company is "extremely disappointed that the District Court in Utah has chosen to take a different path than every other court that has reviewed the Aereo technology." Consumers, he added, "have a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use."
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