A recent decision handed down by a U.S. District Court judge in Washington D.C. ruled against Aereo rival, FilmOn, stating the company violated copyright laws through its streaming service. The decision, the latest in a web of lawsuits brought by TV broadcasters, is in direct opposition to a Second Circuit Court decision in New York, which allowed Aereo’s similar service to continue broadcasting live television network feeds over the Internet. The latest ruling has primed the pump for a possible showdown at the Supreme Court, pitting broadcasters against both Aereo and FilmOn.
Until now, Aereo has been quietly expanding its cloud-based service, which charges users $12 a month for an antenna that allows them to watch live and recorded TV broadcasts over the internet in HD. The service is so far available in NYC, Boston and Atlanta, with plans to expand even further since it first won its battle against 17 networks in the Second Circuit Court case.
Meanwhile, across the country, the smaller Beverly Hills-based company, FilmOn (which formerly adopted the friendly moniker Aereokiller), has been virtually embattled since its inception, with a loss in a California Federal Court in January 2012, and now the second decision, both of which were brought by subsidiary companies of 21st Century Fox. Now more than ever, the services of both Aereo and FilmOn are in jeopardy. Judge Rosemary Collyer, the arbiter of the D.C. ruling, has demanded that all FilmOn services be shut down across the United States, with exception to the those Northeastern states protected by the original Aereo court case.
As we previously reported, while the battle is ostensibly based upon whether or not the retransmission of TV broadcasts is an illegal public performance, or a legal private performance, the cases may boil down to the usual issue: money. As of now, neither FilmOn or Aereo pay retransmission fees to broadcasters, and that does not make the broadcasters happy. As Aereo hopes to gain partners like DirectTV, AT&T, and DishNetwork to expand into larger markets, it looks like the Lords of Big Broadcast Media are out for blood. It should be interesting to watch the whole thing play out, possibly on your Aereo HDTV antenna.