WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to resolve the hotly debated issue of whether the online dissemination of television broadcasts infringes on network rights.
Aereo and Film On X are the vanguards of the new industry, which digital rights advocates applaud for expanding public access to the airwaves and networks condemn as pirate operations.
They work by assigning subscribers a distinct mini-antenna for their computers that allows them to pick up nearly live transmissions of television broadcasts.
ABC, CBS and NBC sued Aereo, which is backed by Barry Diller's IAC, in Manhattan, and brought similar claims against Film On X, owned by Alki David, in Los Angeles.
After U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan refused to cut off Aereo's feed, a divided three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit affirmed in April 2013.
"Aereo's system ... provides the functionality of three devices: a standard TV antenna, a DVR, and a Slingbox-like device," Judge Christopher Droney wrote for the majority. "These devices allow one to watch live television with the antenna; pause and record live television and watch recorded programing using the DVR; and use the Slingbox to watch both live and recorded programs on internet-connected mobile devices."
Months later, the 9th Circuit seemed poised to uphold an injunction against Film On X.
Film On X also faces a nationwide injunction in Washington, D.C., and a New York federal judge also slapped the Internet TV service for violating a settlement and court injunction by streaming the networks' programs.
Aereo has fared much better in the courts, however, scoring another favorable ruling from a federal judge in Boston this past fall.
Per its custom, the Supreme Court did not issue any comment in granting the New York case against Aereo a writ of certiorari. It noted only that Justice Samuel Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of the petition.
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