Aereo Makes Pre-emptive Legal Move Against CBS

Network made 'repeated threats' to sue Aereo in other cities

It's getting close to a verbal and legal blood bath yet between upstart pay TV service Aereo and broadcast owners. In the latest twist to the ongoing legal feud, Aereo on Monday went back to the same court that ruled in its favor against New York broadcast owners and filed a new lawsuit against CBS and all its owned stations. Aereo is asking for a declaratory judgment to pre-emptively rule against CBS in Boston and in any of the other 22 cities Aereo plans to roll out its service.

Aereo said it filed the suit because CBS' CEO Les Moonves and spokesperson Dana McClintock made "repeated threats" to sue Aereo "in every market that it enters."

"We'll follow it [Aereo]," Moonves said last week during the company's quarterly conference call.

The suit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the southern district of New York, which refused to halt Aereo's service. To the disappointment of New York TV station owners, an appeals court affirmed that decision last month. Broadcasters, claiming Aereo is violating their copyright, still have a chance to win against Aereo in a lawsuit over the merits.

"The fact that CBS did not prevail in their efforts to enjoin Aereo in their existing federal lawsuit does not entitle them to a do-over in another jurisdiction," Aereo said in a statement. "We are hopeful that any such efforts to commence duplicative lawsuits to try to seek a different outcome will be rejected by the courts."

CBS chalked up Aereo's move to more posturing. "These public relations and legal maneuvers do not change the fundamentally illegal nature of Aereo's supposed business," CBS shot back in a statement. "The issue of unauthorized streaming of copyrighted television programming is now being contested in the second circuit and the ninth circuit, and wherever Aereo attempts to operate, there will be vigorous challenges to its illegal business model."

Aereo distributes local TV stations over the Internet by renting a tiny dime-sized antenna to subscribers for about $8/month. Broadcasters claim that the service violates their copyright, but Aereo argues that it is only renting an individual antenna and is therefore not a public performance. 

Aereo plans to launch its service in Boston May 15.