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.)
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.
Zynga has been involved in an ongoing legal battle with Vostu, the king of social gaming in Brazil, which also has a big office here in New York. Zynga sued Vostu for copying it games, to which Vostu responded that Zynga had made its entire business off of copying people’s games. Touché.
With Zynga gearing up for an IPO, it was probably in everyone’s interest to get this settled and keep any doubts from investors minds. The company’s sent Betabeat a joint statement, “Zynga and Vostu have settled the copyright lawsuits and counterclaims against each other in the United States and Brazil. As part of the settlement, Vostu made a monetary payment to Zynga and made some changes to four of its games. The parties are pleased to have settled their disputes and to now put these matters behind them.”
There’s an interesting legal case brewing in San Francisco with potential legal ramifications for social mediaites. A federal judge in San Francisco this week refused to dismiss a lawsuit between a cellphone news site called PhoneDog (yes, there is a such a thing) and Noah Kravtiz, its former reporter.
When Mr. Kravitz, who tweeted under the handle @phonedog_noah, left his job, he changed his Twitter moniker to @noahkravitz and took the 17,000 Twitter followers he picked up while associated with PhoneDog with him. In response, PhoneDog issued a complaint arguing that both the password to the Twitter account the identity of followers were trade secrets.
Law and Order
The upstate New York man who claims to own 80 percent (sorry scratch that, 50 percent) of Facebook has decided to put streetfax.com, the domain at the center of his dispute with Mark Zuckerberg, up for sale.
Paul Ceglia hired Mr. Zuckerberg to work on the site when the latter was still at Harvard. According Read More
New York City-based Felix Investments is suing SecondMarket in the New York Supreme Court over a $2,475,000 deal for Facebook shares that never came to fruition. Felix began investing in Facebook back in 2009 through two funds named Facie Libre 1 and Facie Libre II–meaning face book in Latin–and did a brisk business with SecondMarket. Dealbook’s Evelyn Rusli recently described Felix investors as “not part of Silicon Valley’s elite” and “more comfortable navigating the narrow streets of Lower Manhattan than on tree-lined Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park.” The suit is over a deal in January 2010 to buy 75,000 shares from Karl Voskuil, a Facebook software engineer, at $33 per share.
Pot Calling the Kettle
From the department of glass houses and stones, social gaming giant Zynga is suing Vostu, the biggest social gaming company in Brazil.
Vostu was co-founded by Josh Kushner, one of New York’s most active angel investors, and, full disclosure, a backer of Betabeat.
Zynga writes that Vostu has copied, “all of our key product features, product strategy, branding, mission statement and employee benefits lock, stock and barrel.”
The Tao of Steve
New York Publisher John T. Colby filed a lawsuit against Apple in federal court in Manhattan today for trademark infringement over the use of “iBooks.” Colby’s suit alleges that in 2006 and 2007, he purchased assets owned by another New York publisher, Bryon Preiss, who had published more than 1,000 hardcover and paperback books under the “ibooks” name starting in September 1999.
Apple does have a trademark on “IBOOK,” but according to the suit, it only applies to computers. (Apple once sold a PC known as the “iBook). Colby alleges that Apple didn’t use the term to apply e-books or a means of delivering e-books until the iPad debuted last year. If Apple starts applying it to e-books and apps, the suit says it will render Colby’s trademark worthless. But that’s not the only trademark suit Apple got smacked with this week.
Tao of Steve
Developers at WWDC were frustrated not to hear a word from Steve Jobs about the war patent firm Lodsys is waging against third-party developers. But at long last—okay fine, nine days later—Apple has come out swinging. Yesterday, they filed a motion to intervene in Lodsys’ lawsuit against seven small-time iOS app developers for an in-app purchase mechanism. The court has yet to decide whether it will grant Apple’s motion to act as an intervenor,which Lodsys has the power to oppose. But Apple has already submitted its answer to Lodsys’ complaint and a counterclaim. Apple’s proposed defense is that the alleged infringements are covered under an existing license agreement in Apple’s favor.
Earlier this year Facebook introduced “Sponsored Stories”, which take wall postings that mention brand names and injects that commentary into an ad unit.
So the Brooklyn family that filed a class action lawsuit this week is a little behind the times. The Nastro family is suing because Facebook did not get their permission before displaying the fact that their son Justin, a minor, “liked” certain products.