Feb 19 A federal judge in Utah on Wednesday
barred online television service provider Aereo from
retransmitting programs, but only if the Supreme Court also
sides with major broadcasters later this year.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball in Salt Lake City issued an
injunction, ruling that broadcasters including Twenty-First
Century Fox Inc had shown a likelihood that they could
prove Aereo committed copyright infringement.
Aereo, backed by billionaire Barry Diller's
IAC/InterActiveCorp, does not pay broadcasters for use
of programming that it retransmits to subscribers. Its users pay
a low monthly fee to watch live or recorded programs on their
computers or mobile devices.
Last year a federal appeals court in New York ruled in favor
of Aereo in a similar lawsuit. Broadcasters appealed to the U.S.
Supreme Court, which last month agreed to hear the case. A
decision is expected by the end of June.
Kimball put the injunction on hold pending the high court's
In a statement, Aereo Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia
said the company is "extremely disappointed" that the Utah
federal court came to a different conclusion than every other
court that has reviewed Aereo's technology.
Aereo subscribers can stream live broadcasts of TV channels
on mobile devices using miniature antennas, each assigned to one
subscriber. The service was launched in March 2012 in the New
York area. The company has since expanded to about 10 cities and
plans to enter several more.
The broadcasters claim the service violates copyrights on TV
programs, and threatens their ability to control subscription
fees and generate advertising.
Traditional cable television providers are also watching the
issue. Cablevision Systems Corp has said the legal
theory advanced by broadcasters to the high court would spell
trouble for cloud-based content services and threaten
Cablevision's ability to offer its customers DVR recording.
In court filings in Utah, Twenty-First Century Fox argued
that "free-riders like Aereo" could deprive residents of
programming like local news. Randall agreed in his ruling.
"Original local programming, covering local news, sports,
and other areas of interest, costs millions of dollars to
produce and deliver to the public," he wrote, "and the public
interest plainly lies in enjoining copyright infringement that
threatens the continued viability of such local programming."
In his statement, Aereo's Kanojia said consumers have a
"fundamental right" to watch over-the-air television via an
"The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that
right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely
located equipment," Kanojia said.
The case in U.S. District Court, District of Utah is
Community Television of Utah LLC et al. vs. Aereo Inc., 13-910.