Aereo’s Life at Stake in Court|Battle With Major Networks

     MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge should pull the plug on the online streaming service Aereo, major broadcasters urged Wednesday in Federal Court.
     Attorneys for several television networks, including ABC, CBS and Fox, sued Aereo in March 2012, claiming that its Internet streaming services infringe on their broadcasts. The networks appeared before U.S. District Judge Allison Nathan on Wednesday to seek an injunction to block the site.
     Aereo attorney David Hosp asked that the injunction be denied, claiming that Aero has “bent over backwards” and “obeyed the law at every step” after it was hobbled by a June Supreme Court ruling that found it infringed on broadcasters’ exclusive rights.
     The Supreme Court found the site to have an “overwhelming likeness” to cable companies, and as such, it “performs,” and is therefore governed by the Copyright Act of 1976’s Transmit Clause.
     The “history makes clear that Aereo is not simply an equipment provider,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the majority. Breyer found that the company’s “activities are substantially similar to those of [community antenna television] companies.”
     In dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia said the notion that Aereo “performs” is most like a “copy shop that provides its patrons with a library card.”
     Last week, Aereo sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that if it’s a cable company, then it “qualifies for the cable system compulsory license under Section 111 of the Copyright Act.”
     Aereo wants the FCC to define the phrase “multichannel video programming distributor” “to include a narrow category of Internet-based services whose facilities deliver to subscriber lineal channels of video programming such as local, over-the-air broadcast programming.”
     According to the Oct. 10 letter to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch, Aereo rolled out in 50 cities in 2012 “with minimal marketing,” and has “paused its operations” while it seeks “greater legal clarity” after the 6-3 split Supreme Court ruling.
     Nathan seemed irritated at the notion.
     “How many bites of the apple does one get?” she asked. “At some point we should just settle this case.”
     Nathan blocked an injunction request two years ago, and was affirmed by the 2nd Circuit.
     She did not indicate when she might rule on the most recent request.
     Backed by IAC’s Barry Diller, Aero lets subscribers watch broadcast TV online.

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