Broadcaster owners in New York filed lawsuits Thursday against Aereo, a service that delivers broadcast TV via the Internet. In two separate complaints filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Fox, Univision, ABC, NBC, CBS and the public TV stations charge that the service infringes on the TV stations' exclusive rights of public performance and reproduction granted under the U.S. Copyright Act.
They are asking for damages and a permanent injunction against Aereo, which is set to launch its service in New York on March 14.
Aereo, backed by IAC's Barry Diller, knew the lawsuits were coming. Instead of paying broadcasters to carry the TV signals, the startup company has argued it is merely renting antennas to consumers for a monthly fee of $12.
In their case, broadcasters claim Aereo is a retransmission service, which entitles them to compensation.
"No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo—or claims that it is simply providing a set of sophisticated 'rabbit ears'—changes the fundamental principle of copyright law that those who wish to retransmit Plaintiff's broadcasts may do so only with Plaintiff's authority. Simply put, Aereo is an unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting and retransmitting broadcast signals to its subscribers for a fee," wrote Jenner & Block, the law firm representing Fox, Univision and WNET, the public TV station.
"Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters' lawsuit has any merit and very much looks forward to its upcoming product launch as well as a full and fair airing of the issues," Aereo said in a statement.