The nation's biggest television companies including
Launched in 2012 and available in a handful of markets including
Because Aereo is not paying the owners of the television stations whose signals it is transmitting, broadcasters are crying foul and claiming copyright theft.
The Supreme Court filing is seeking to overturn a 2-1 decision made earlier this year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, which found that Aereo's transmissions and recordings of broadcast content are not "public performances" of copyrighted material. In addition, the court said the broadcasters "have not demonstrated that they are likely to prevail on the merits on this claim in their copyright infringement action."
There's no guarantee the high court will hear the case. If not, broadcasters would likely continue the fight in the lower courts and then try to take another swing with the Supreme Court.
In the Friday filing to the Supreme Court, the broadcasters said the Second Circuit decision "threatens to upend" the television industry" by "blessing a business model that retransmits 'live TV' to paying customers without obtaining any authorization or paying a penny to copyright owners."
Consumers have always had the ability to purchase an antenna to receive over-the-air television signals. However, broadcasters say in their filing that
An Aereo spokeswoman said in a statement that the company would respond to the filing in "due course."
In its ruling, the Second Circuit said since Aereo subscribers are getting an individual transmission streamed from a digital copy of a broadcaster's programming, it was a private performance.
The broadcasters counter that this is a technological loophole.
"Congress did not want liability to turn on the technical details of a transmission service and did not want the statute rendered obsolete by changes in the technology used to communicate performances to the public," the broadcasters said.
Besides the big four broadcast networks, others going after Aereo include
Broadcasters fear that if successful, Aereo could undermine the economics of their business model. Specifically, there are worries that not only will consumers embrace Aereo, but that distributors such as cable and satellite companies will use it or a similar service to avoid paying broadcasters. Broadcasters count on those distribution fees for programming and if Aereo's service catches on, they fear it could severely limit their ability to create and acquire high quality content.
Some broadcasters, including Fox, have even threatened to abandon broadcast television in favor of cable if Aereo and similar services were found to be legal.
Aereo, which won't disclose how many subscribers it has, argues that its service is no different than a pair of rabbit ears on a roof. Its backers include media mogul
New York is not the only place broadcasters have taken on Aereo. In Boston, a group of TV station owners including
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