Judge Warms Hot Seat for Aereo Executives

     MANHATTAN (CN) - Aereo's top executives cannot avoid an additional hour of deposition about how they patented their digital television platform, a federal judge ruled.
     Several major networks, including ABC, CBS, and NBC, sued Aereo on March 1, 2012, claiming that the company infringed on their broadcasts by transmitting them to subscribers. The parties have wrangled over whether Aereo's platform and technology made it liable for copyright violations.
     Each time a subscriber logs into its online service, Aereo randomly assigns the user an antenna in its facilities to watch and record broadcast TV for free.
     Last year, U.S. District Judge Allison Nathan denied the networks' request for a preliminary injunction shutting off the web platform, and the case has remained in discovery.
     During their depositions, Aereo's CEO Chet Kanojia and chief technology officer Joseph Lipowski blocked questions about the patents they filed for the technology, which they claimed to be protected by attorney client privilege.
     U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman overruled those objections from the bench during oral arguments this past summer, and he refused to reconsider his decision in a 15-page order on Monday.
     Although the men consulted with lawyers before filing the patent, the application consisted of their own sworn statements, the magistrate said.
     Pitman also dismissed what he called the "rather odd argument" that forcing the executives to testify about the patents in this copyright dispute "could later potentially be used in an entirely different context" against them.
     "This argument fails for two reasons. First, there is a protective order in place prohibiting discovery obtained in this action from being used in other actions," the order states. "Second, the truth is immutable, and the fact that a witness's testimony in this action may preclude him from giving contradictory testimony in a subsequent action is not prejudice. The truth is the truth, and a witness cannot give different versions of it in different proceedings without committing perjury."
     Neither party could immediately respond to requests for comment.