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Networks file suit against "unauthorized" streaming service Aereo ahead of NYC launch

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A group of networks including Fox, PBS, and Univison have sued Aereo, a service that captures broadcast signals and streams them to subscribers, thus bypassing the need for a cable subscription.

Aereo antennas
Aereo antennas

When we first came across Aereo, the streaming service that lets you bypass cable to watch around 20 local broadcast networks via a proprietary antenna, we noted the possibility of legal issues down the line. Sure enough, ahead of the service's planned March 14th trial launch in New York City, the owners of networks including Fox, Univision, and PBS have filed a suit for injunctive relief and damages. Aereo's argument is that the individual antennas (above) each subscriber will use to capture and stream broadcast signals allows the service to operate within the boundary of public exhibition laws, but the plaintiffs claim that this amounts to large-scale copyright infringement. The National Association of Broadcasters is backing the suit, with Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton releasing the following statement:

"NAB strongly supports today's legal action against Aereo. Copyright and TV signal protections promote a robust local broadcasting system that serves tens of millions of Americans every day with high quality news, entertainment, sports and emergency weather information. A plaintiffs' win in this case will ensure the continued availability of this programming to the viewing public."

The plaintiffs describe Aereo as "an unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting and retransmitting broadcast signals to its subscribers for a fee," an assessment that seems pretty hard to disagree with on face value. Aereo seems confident in its legal position, however, with the founder and chief executive Chet Kanojia noting that "when you try to take something meaningful on, you have to be prepared for challenges." The company "does not believe that the broadcasters' position has any merit," saying that "consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna," and looks forward to its day in court.