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Aereo wins a minor legal victory in Boston, but larger fight looms

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Aereo will be able to continue operating as usual in Boston as it prevails in yet another court ruling that could have had it shutting down services. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton today denied a request for a preliminary injunction against Aereo, which was put forth by the local broadcaster Hearst. An injunction would have required that Aereo stop streaming local-only content from Heart's Boston news channel, WCVB, until the court made a final decision on the case. In his ruling, Gorton notes that Hearst was unable to prove that it would be irreparably harmed during this period of time, and thus denied the request.

"Today’s victory belongs to the consumer," Aereo founder Chet Kanojia says in a statement. "Today’s decision makes clear that that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television."

"The prospect of harm is real."

But while the denial is a win for Aereo, it's only a small one. The case still has to be heard, and Gorton writes that there is reason for Hearst to worry about Aereo's effects on its business. "The prospect of harm is real," Gorton notes. However, he believes it won't come immediately, "It seems more likely that the harm will take several years to materialize."

Hearst's target was also quite narrow: it was only seeking to block Aereo's use of its original content, meaning Aereo could have continued to stream all other channels, and even the national programming on WCVB. But nonetheless, Hearst still brought its complaint on many of the same merits that other broadcasters have, and it's so far seeing a poor response from Gorton. While Gorton writes that the rules governing what Aereo can and can't rebroadcast are "not a model of clarity," he thinks that Aereo's interpretation is the most compelling so far.

That legal ambiguity is one that broadcasters are hoping will clear up soon. They're reportedly looking to bring Aereo in front of the Supreme Court in the near future, rather than allowing these cases to drag on. There's no certainty that the Supreme Court will agree to take the case though, and with lower courts' rulings so far, even less certainly that its ruling would make broadcasters happy.