Broadcasters Win Against Aereo in Utah District Court

Ruling precedes April 22 Supreme Court oral arguments

Weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments between broadcasters and Aereo, a district judge in Utah has imposed a preliminary injunction against the streaming TV service.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled that the streaming video service was engaging in copyright infringement, in clear viloation of the 1976 Copyright Act.  

At the conclusion of the Court’s 26-page judgment, Kimball said Fox Broadcasting Co. and local station owners Nexstar and Community Television of Utah were likely to prevail in court over Aereo.

“The court concludes that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their copyright infringement claims and that plaintiffs will be irreparably harmed if a preliminary injunction does not issue,” Kimball wrote.

The injunction covers the six states represented by the Tenth Circuit: Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.

“This is a significant win for both broadcasters and content owners,” said Fox in a statement, adding the injunction would “prohibit Aereo from stealing our broadcast signal.”

In a statement, Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said: "We are extremely disappointed that the District Court in Utah has chosen to take a different path than every other court that has reviewed the Aereo technology. Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over the air broadcast television via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use. The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located equipment," Kanojia said.

The court, however, didn't buy Aereo's "modern" approach. "Despite its attempt to design a device or process outside the scope of the 1976 Copyright Act, Aereo's device or process transmits plaintiff's copyrighted programs to the public," Kimball wrote.

The Supreme Court ultimately will decide Aereo’s fate following oral arguments scheduled for April 22. The case is American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. et al, v. Aereo, Inc. (docket No. 13-461).