By Erin Geiger Smith
Oct 11 The four major broadcasters asked the
U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to hear their case against Aereo
Inc, arguing the online service steals copyrighted television
Walt Disney Co's ABC network, CBS Broadcasting Inc
, Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal, and Fox
Television Stations Inc said allowing Aereo to operate
is "already transforming the industry and threatening the very
fundamentals of broadcast television."
The broadcasters are appealing an April decision by the 2nd
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that denied their request to shut
Aereo while litigation moved forward.
A spokeswoman for Aereo said the company would respond "in
The Supreme Court will likely decide by the end of the year
whether to take the case.
Aereo, backed by Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp
, charges users a low monthly fee to watch live or
recorded broadcast TV channels on computers or mobile devices.
Aereo does not pay the broadcasters.
The broadcasters have said the service violates copyrights
on television programs and is a threat to their ability to
control subscription fees and generate advertising.
Aereo has countered that its service does nothing more than
provide users with what they could get with a personal
Several lawsuits between Aereo and television providers are
playing out across the country, including in federal courts in
New York, Massachusetts and Utah. The Supreme Court appeal stems
from the New York litigation.
This week, a Boston federal judge denied a request by Hearst
Television Inc's local station, WCVB-TV, that Aereo
be prevented from providing WCVB programs to subscribers while
the lawsuit there is pending.
While the broadcasters have not had success so far against
Aereo, they did convince a California federal court to force
Aereo competitor FilmOn X to shut down while a lawsuit there
FilmOn X appealed the lower court's decision to the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard arguments in the case in
August but has yet to issue an opinion.
A Washington D.C. district court judge also ruled in
September that FilmOn X must cease to operate everywhere in the
country, except the region covered by the 2nd Circuit, while the
lawsuit brought by broadcasters there moves forward.
It is difficult to predict if the Supreme Court will accept
a case, but one of the factors the justices use to decide is
whether the case presents an issue of national importance, said
David Wittenstein, a media attorney with the law firm Dow
There is not an official split between the U.S. appeals
courts on whether Aereo and services like it violate U.S.
copyright law, he said. The necessity of resolving different
circuit court rulings is often a reason the high court accepts a
Still, Wittenstein said, the disparity between the way the
district courts in New York and Massachusetts, on one side, and
California and Washington D.C., on the other, have applied what
is supposed to be uniform U.S. copyright law could give the
justices reason to take the case.
A spokesman for Fox said broadcasters "rely on enforcement
of the law to receive fair value" for their programming, and the
Supreme Court filing "underscores our resolve to see justice
NBC and CBS declined to comment. ABC did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.