Chet Kanojia, CEO and founder of Aereo
The nation's largest television broadcasters filed a copyright lawsuit against FilmOn.TV and its Aereokiller service yesterday, alleging that the service retransmits TV programming without authorization or compensating them, according to a story in Variety. Aereokiller is the flippantly-named competitor to Aereo, the company that uses dime-sized antennas to capture over-the-air TV transmissions and then streams them to subscribers by way of the internet.
This is part of an escalating fight for control of the country's TV airwaves. The broadcasters say that if Aereo, or any other company is allowed to distribute their programming without licensing it then nobody will. A big chunk of the broadcasters' revenue comes from the retransmission fees it charges cable companies. Aereo, which is also defending itself against a copyright suit filed by the broadcasters, argues that it only enables subscribers to access freely available over-the-air TV, which they have every right to do.
This is part of an escalating fight for control of the country's TV airwaves The broadcasters appear to be suing Aereokiller again because it has proven to be a far less formidable opponent in court than Aereo. Last year, a federal district judge in New York rejected the broadcasters' request to issue a preliminary injunction that would have required Aereo to shut down. A federal appeals court agreed with the lower court's decision and found that the broadcasters were unlikely to win the case based on the evidence.
But out in California, the broadcasters prevailed in another district Court against Aereokiller. They are obviously hoping to win a similar decision in Washington DC, where the most recent suit against Aereokiller was filed. It's interesting to note that the big media companies typically file their copyright suits in New York, a venue that perhaps doesn't look as friendly to them now.
Media companies typically file their copyright suits in New York, a venue that perhaps doesn't look as friendly to them now Aereo has accused the broadcasters of venue shopping and using up the public's legal resources while they search for sympathetic courts. But if the broadcasters were to again prevail over Aereokiller, it's unclear what advantage it would have over Aereo, which possesses its own favorable court rulings. It's too early to tell where this case is headed but when there are conflicting court decisions on an issue, the parties will often look for a Supreme Court ruling.
Who knows? Maybe the Aereo conflict becomes the digital era's equivalent of Sony Betamax case, when the high Court ruled that Sony's video recorder wasn't illegal in part because creating video copies of TV shows for personal use was legal. It's important to remember that the Betamax decision eventually led to the creation of the video-rental market, which for decades was one of Hollywood's most lucrative sources of revenue.