Aereo Scores Another Win Against Broadcasters in Boston

Supreme Court petition likely

Broadcasters lost another court ruling against Aereo. A U.S. district judge in Boston denied Hearst TV's request for an injunction against the streaming TV service.

Hearst, owner of WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Aereo in July, two months after Aereo launched in the market. 

But Judge Nathaniel Gorton refused to stop Aereo's service, concluding that Hearst would likely fail to convince the court that Aereo is unlawfully distributing its signal. "Hearst has made a minimal showing of irreparable harm that is an insufficient basis for entering a preliminary injunction in its favor," Gorton wrote.

On the positive side for broadcasters, the judge refused to move the arguments over the merits of the case to New York.

"We will immediately appeal the court’s decision that allows Aereo to continue to engage in a commercial business that unlawfully profits by using WCVB’s copyrighted broadcasts and shows. We expect to prevail in this case,“ said a WCVB spokesperson.

Backed by former broadcaster Barry Diller (who is ironically receiving a "Giants of Broadcasting" award from the Library of American Broadcasting next week), Aereo gets around broadcasters' claim of copyright infringement by arguing that it is renting (for about $8 a month) a small personal antenna to subscribers so that they can stream local stations over the Internet. Launched last year in New York, Aereo has been aggressively rolling out in additional markets and is currently in service in seven markets.

"Today's victory belongs to the consumer and today's decision makes clear that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television," said Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia. 

The decision against broadcasters in Boston follows a similar defeat in New York, but broadcasters are determined to fight Aereo in other markets where it has launched. A suit was filed earlier this week by Fox, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Local TV against Aereo in Salt Lake City. 

Despite court setbacks with Aereo, broadcasters recently won a case in Washington, D.C., against FilmOn, an Aereo copycat service. That decision gives the network TV broadcast owners the legal justification they need to file a petition with the Supreme Court, which they are expected to do on Tuesday.

The ruling in Boston was first reported by Adweek sister publication, The Hollywood Reporter

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