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Judge refuses to grant injunction against Aereo online TV service (update)

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A New York judge has declined to grant an injunction against television streaming provider Aereo in connection with a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against the company by NBC, CBS, ABC, and several other television providers.

Aereo (STOCK)
Aereo (STOCK)

Streaming television service Aereo has been under legal fire from Comcast, Fox, CBS, and several other television providers due to allegations of copyright infringement. The company won't have to shut down its services in the meantime, however: according to Reuters, a judge in New York has refused to grant a preliminary injunction against the company. New York District Judge Alison Nathan reportedly felt that the broadcasters had demonstrated the streaming service could cause them considerable financial harm, but that Aereo had shown the same would be true for its business if the injunction had been granted. Given the stature of the respective parties, the judge ruled in favor of Aereo; according to the Associated Press, Nathan even said a preliminary injunction against Aereo would be "the end of the company."

Aereo, which is partly backed by media mogul Barry Diller, launched its streaming service in New York back in March of this year. For $12 a month, users can watch live television rebroadcast to their iOS or Roku devices (support for most HTML5-compliant browsers is said to be coming). Aereo tries to skirt any thorny legal issues by using a different antenna for each individual subscriber to receive and rebroadcast the television it streams; the company claims the arrangement ensures the service is covered under public exhibition laws. Networks, however, have been concerned about the potential ramifications of the service, with NBCUniversal's executive vice president of content distribution Matt Bond recently stating that "It makes little economic sense for cable systems and satellite broadcasters to continue to pay for NBCU content on a per-subscriber basis" when they could simply adopt a model similar to Aereo's.

The end result has been a display of legal fireworks, with multiple parties suing Aereo, and the company in turn filing a countersuit against ABC, NBC, CBS and others, seeking a judgement that its service does not in fact infringe on any copyrights. The courtroom developments are still far from over, but in the meantime, for Aereo users it's going to be business as usual. Diller seemed pleased with the results, telling the New York Times in an emailed statement that "I did think we were on the side of the angels on this project, certainly for consumers — good to see the judge saw it that way."

Update: Aereo has provided us with a statement from the company's CEO and founder Chet Kanojia:

"Today's decision shows that when you are on the right side of the law, you can stand up, fight the Goliath and win. This isn't just a win for Aereo, it's also a significant win for consumers who are demanding more choice and flexibility in the way they watch television. We said from the start that we believed that a full and fair airing of the issues would reveal that Aereo's groundbreaking technology falls squarely within the law. We are grateful to the court for its thoughtful and measured approach to this matter. Today's decision should serve as a signal to the public that control and choice are moving back into the hands of the consumer - that's a powerful statement."