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Aereo files suit against CBS to head off second copyright claim from network

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Aereo (STOCK)
Aereo (STOCK)

Aereo has filed a complaint today against CBS in an effort to prevent the network from filing additional lawsuits against the fledgling service.

Aereo is a web TV service that enables users to view over-the-air broadcasts via the web. Two groups of television networks — groups that include CBS, Fox, and NBC — filed copyright claims last year and argued that Aereo is an illegal service because it distributes their programming without compensating them. After losing two decisions in New York this year, a CBS spokesman said on Twitter two weeks ago that CBS plans to file another lawsuit against Aereo in Boston, an area Aereo recently announced it would move into. Aereo says that the broadcasters are just shopping for a more sympathetic court and that it's a waste of the public's resources.

"Last year, the trial court denied CBS and the other broadcasters' request for a preliminary injunction against Aereo," Aereo said in a statement. "Last month, the appeals court affirmed that decision. The fact that CBS did not prevail in their efforts to enjoin Aereo in their existing federal lawsuit does not entitle them to a do-over in another jurisdiction. We are hopeful that any such efforts to commence duplicative lawsuits to try to seek a different outcome will be rejected by the courts."

Aereo says that the broadcasters are just shopping for a more sympathetic court.

The fight with Aereo is vital to the broadcasters. They say that if Aereo is allowed to redistribute their programming without paying, nobody will. The networks receive large retransmission fees from cable companies. Leaders at CBS and Fox have threatened to pull their shows off the free airwaves if Aereo is allowed to operate. A CBS spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Aereo says it doesn't redistribute anything. The company uses the internet to connect each user to a tiny TV antenna housed at their facilities and then allows them to control the antenna to watch over-the-air broadcasts.

In the suit Aereo filed in federal court in New York against CBS, it is asking for a declaratory judgment. It wants the court to determine the rights and restrictions of the parties of the original lawsuit filed by the broadcasters. Aereo wants to court to claim jurisdiction in the matter and prevent CBS and the other plaintiffs from venue shopping. "This case should be heard by the same court handling the consolidated 2012 actions," Aereo said in its complaint, "in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of judicial effort."