Two sets of New York-based broadcast TV stations filed complaints yesterday against Aereo, a new startup that streams live TV from major networks like CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW, and PBS, as well as other local channels to any mobile device. The lawsuits, which ask for injunctive relief and damages, argue that Aereo rebroadcasts their TV programming without licensing or consent. (The fact that Aereo, which launches March 14th, charges only $12/month probably doesn’t sit well with them either.)
As AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka explained, Aereo knew these copyright challenges were coming, which is partly why the company recently raised a sizable $20.5 million series A round led by IAC, with participation from existing investors like FirstMark Capital and First Round Capital. Aereo’s position is that its service is legal because the company issues every user their own (thumbnail-sized) antenna, stored in a local warehouse. By structuring it that way, they claim that it’s consumers accessing the content, not Aereo.
The company emailed Betabeat the following response to the complaint, which they also posted on the Aereo blog (emphasis ours):
“Today, two groups of broadcasters filed two separate federal lawsuits against Aereo in the Southern District of New York claiming that Aereo will infringe their copyrights by making available technology which enables consumers to access broadcast television via a remote antenna and DVR. Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues.
Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use. Innovations in technology over time, from digital signals to Digital Video Recorders (“DVRs”), have made access to television easier and better for consumers. Aereo provides technology that enables consumers to use their cloud DVR and their remote antenna to record and watch the broadcast television signal to which they are entitled anywhere they are, whether on a phone, a tablet, a television or a laptop.
Aereo looks forward to its upcoming product launch as well as a prompt resolution of these cases.”
In one of the complaints, the plaintiffs include WNET, Thirteen, Fox Television, WPIX, PBS, Univision, and more. Pro-tip, broadcasters: You can’t litigate your way out of the future. Aereo, on the other hand, has been aggressively courting New Yorkers (when it launches, the service will only be available in the city) and techies with recent events at General Assembly and Hotel Williamsburg.