Perhaps it’s public posturing in advance of its Wednesday launch, but Aereo couldn’t seem less bothered about the two copyright infringement lawsuits the startup is currently facing in the Southern District of New York. Case in point, yesterday afternoon Aereo filed a breezy counterclaim–not countersuit as reported elsewhere–against ABC, CBS, Disney, NBC, Universal, Telemundo, and more.
(If you’re playing catch-up with our coverage, here’s a quick primer: 1. For only $12/month, the Long Island City-based startup Aereo lets users live-stream and record broadcast TV to any mobile device. Because the startup also incorporates Hulu and Netflix and doesn’t require any additional devices or dongles, the IAC/Interactive-backed company makes cord-cutting even more of a reality. 2. Broadcasters no likey. On March 1st, two groups of broadcasters filed suit for copyright infringement.)
In the 15-page counterclaim and answer, Aereo cites previous cases that ruled in favor of VCR and DVD players, i.e. technological progress in terms of how we watch television [emphasis ours]:
“This case involves nothing more than the application of settled law to updated technology–settled law that establishes that Aereo’s business is entirely lawful. Plaintiffs’ Complaint fails because Aereo merely provides technology that consumers may use to do what they are legally entitled to do (1) access free and legally accessible over-the-air television broadcasts using an antenna; (2) create individual, unique recordings of those broadcasts for personal use, see Sony Corp. of America vs. Universal City Studios Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984); and play back those unique recordings utilizing a remotely-located digital video recorder (“DVR”) to personal devices, see Cartoon Network LP vs. CSC Holdings Inc., 536 F. 3d 121 (2d Cir. 2008.)”
Mr. Diller actually telegraphed this argument over the weekend at SXSW, telling the folks in Austin that Aereo was no different from a Betamax, evoking a Supreme Court ruling in Sony’s favor. In the counterclaim, Aereo reiterates its previously-stated position: that its insulated from copyright claims because it uses individual antennas (stored in a local warehouse):
“When a consumer is accessing broadcast television using the Aereo Technology, he or she is using a specific individual antenna that is tuned and used only by that consumer for the duration of that access. Aereo, through the Aereo Technology, simply provides to its members the convenience of locating at a remote facility the type of equipment that they could otherwise have and use at home.”
In other words, Aereo’s technology is the new rabbit ears. And who could be afraid of a sweet little bunny . . . gnashing away at the cord to your cable bill.
Yesterday’s counterclaim was only filed in response to one set of plaintiffs suing Aereo: ABC, NBC, et al. The second suit comes from WNET, Fox Television Stations (the network Mr. Diller is credited with organizing), WPIX, Univision, PBS, and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Aereo’s PR firm said a counterclaim against the latter is expected as well and offered the following statement:
“Aereo’s business rests on three very well established legal principles: the consumers’ right to access broadcast television, their right to record unique copies of broadcasts for personal use and their right to use remotely located equipment to make their private copies. We firmly believe that Aereo’s technology is lawful. We are confident in the legal process, and we look forward to a prompt resolution of these meritless lawsuits.”