NYC broadcasters sue to shut down web TV service Aereo

Summary:Weeks before its official launch, web TV service Aereo is in hot water with NYC broadcasters.

It sure took them long enough.

Two weeks before cloud TV service Aereo is set to launch in New York City, area broadcasters are moving to shut it down.

WNET, Thirteen FOX, WPIX, Univision and others are suing Aereo on the grounds that its receiving and retransmitting content illegally.

Aereo, if you recall, functions by taking existing broadcast signals and retransmitting them to its customers via dedicated antennas. The company argues that, because each customer gets a dedicated antenna, the service is no different from a subscription-based pair of rabbit ears.

Not so, say the broadcasters, who call Aereo's arrays of mini-antenna's "technological gimmickry"  and accuse the company of violating their exclusive rights of public performance and reproduction.

"Simply put, Aereo is an unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting, and retransmitting broadcast signals to it subscribers for a fee," the suit says.

Of course, very little of this is particularly shocking. Aereo's legal grounding was dubious from the very beginning, so it's of little surprise that the broadcasters now have the service in their sights.

Aereo and its investors expected the legal challenges as well, as AllThingsD Peter Kafka notes. That $25 million it raised was also for legal fees, apparently.

A PDF of the filing is available here.

Update: Aereo has responded to the lawsuit, and its defense is essentially a reiteration of what it has said previously:

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.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware

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Ricardo Bilton writes for ZDNet's The ToyBox.

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