Aereo to Supreme Court: Bring It On!

Streaming upstart service believes it’s on solid legal ground

Aereo, the streaming TV service that is facing numerous copyright lawsuits brought by broadcasters, on Thursday said it welcomes a review of the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. While the company stopped short of saying “bring it on,” Aereo clearly believes it’s on solid legal ground.

“We have decided to not oppose the broadcasters’ petition for certiorari before the United States Supreme Court,” said Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo. “While the law is clear and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and two different federal courts have ruled in favor of Aereo, broadcasters appear determined to keep litigating the same issues against Aereo in every jurisdiction that we enter. We want this resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition.”

Aereo uses tiny dime-sized antennae to capture over-the-air TV stations and streams them to subscribers for a monthly fee. Aereo said it is simply renting a personal antenna, but broadcasters call it a ruse, claiming copyright infringement and filing lawsuits against Aereo in every market Aereo has launched its service.

All the major broadcast networks have filed suit against Aereo, as have local station owners Hearst TV and Sinclair Broadcast Group. Aereo has fought back against preliminary injunctions in many markets, but an Aereo copycat service lost big in Washington, D.C., paving the way for the Supreme Court to step in, if it chooses.

In its filing with the Supreme Court, the Barry Diller-backed Aereo argues the law is on its side.

“Consumers have the right to use an antenna to access the over-the-air television. It is a right that should be protected and preserved and in fact, has been protected for generations by Congress,” Kanojia said. “Eliminating a consumer’s right to take advantage of innovation with respect to antenna technology would disenfranchise millions of Americans in cities and rural towns across the country.

“We are unwavering in our belief that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and we look forward to continuing to delight our customers.”

Broadcasters took the opposite tack in their filing with the Supreme Court in October, arguing that if Aereo’s “for-profit exploitation of the copyrighted works of others” were allowed to continue, it would upend the entire broadcast business model by undermining retransmission revenues for programming. 

Available in nine markets, Aereo will launch in Baltimore on Monday.