* TV networks oppose Aereo Internet-based video streaming startup
* Cablevision says past decision in its own case unrelated
* High-profile case being watched by pay TV industry
By Liana B. Baker
Sept 24 (Reuters) - Cablevision has thrown its support behind major U.S. broadcast networks in their bid to stop Aereo Inc, an online television start-up backed by billionaire Barry Diller, from broadcasting TV programming over the Internet.
Cablevision, which was formerly pitted against the parent companies of these same networks it is now supporting in court, filed a brief on Monday saying that the district court’s ruling in July to allow Aereo to continue operating should be reversed.
In July, a federal judge rejected the broadcasters request to block Aereo, saying that a temporary ban “may quickly mean the end of Aereo as a business.”
Several broadcasters such as Walt Disney Co’s ABC, CBS Corp, Comcast Corp’s NBCUniversal and Telemundo, News Corp’s Fox, Univision Communications Inc and the Public Broadcasting Service filed lawsuits accusing Aereo of copyright violations two weeks before the product even launched in the New York City area in March for $12 per month.
The Aereo lawsuits are being closely watched because the product is seen as a threat to the TV industry’s ability to control subscription fees and generate advertising revenue, their two main sources of revenue. A separate lawsuit filed by the broadcast networks against Dish Network’s ad-skipping Hopper device is also being watched.
In its July ruling, the court concluded it was bound by a 2008 Second Circuit court’s decision in favor of Cablevision for creating a remote-storage digital video recorder that allows consumers to record programs on remote servers. Companies such as Disney and News Corp had sued Cablevision at the time.
Cablevision’s filing late Friday said that this case is too different from Aereo’s to serve as a precedent.
Cablevision argues that Aereo did not obtain permission from broadcasters or pay licensing fees to rebroadcast their programming — a “critical legal difference” from Cablevision, which pays these fees.
The cable company also disagreed with Aereo’s claims that its use of individual antennas make the broadcasts private, since they are available to anyone who wants to use the service.
Cablevision also said that Aereo has no right to save TV broadcasts on hard drives like the cable company does because it is not offering consumers an independent separate service.
Cablevision said it believes that Aereo could have designed its system to allow customers to pause live television without saving all the programming on hard drive copies.
An Aereo spokeswoman declined to comment on Cablevision’s filing.
The cases are WNET et al. v. Aereo, Inc. et al., 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-2786, and CBS Broadcasting Inc. et al. v. Aereo, Inc., in the same court, No. 12-2807.