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Aereo sues CBS in pre-emptive move to protect Boston expansion

Aereo on iPad

After weeks of legal threats from CBS and Fox, Aereo pre-empted any potential attempt by the broadcasting incumbents to stave off its planned expansion to Boston next week by filing a lawsuit against CBS today.

Only two weeks ago, Aereo unveiled its plan to expand its streaming service to Boston, leading to a feisty rebuke from CBS chief executive, Les Moonves, who accused the upstart company of “taking our signal” and threatened to take the network to cable only should the courts not stop Aereo’s operations and expansion. 

In the filing with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Aereo cited CBS’ recent legal threats as a basis for asking the court to rule that its technology doesn’t infringe on anything CBS owns copyright to. Aereo announced that Boston would be the first city outside of its home base in New York to get the service. A further 21 markets across the country are to follow over the course of this year.

CBS was none too pleased about the move to Boston, and threatened to file suit there and in every other market Aereo goes to, based on comments from Moonves and tweets expressing similar sentiments by another CBS executive.

The district court actually denied a preliminary injunction against Aereo by CBS. Had it been awarded, the injunction would’ve stopped Aereo from expanding while the court heard the broadcaster’s case against the streaming service’s business model. CBS appealed, only to lose again at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The war of words continued with official statements released yesterday.

“The fact that CBS did not prevail in their efforts to enjoin Aereo in their existing federal lawsuit does not entitle them to a do-over in another jurisdiction,” said Aereo in its statement. “We are hopeful that any such efforts to commence duplicative lawsuits to try to seek a different outcome will be rejected by the courts.”

“These public relations and legal maneuvers do not change the fundamentally illegal nature of Aereo’s supposed business,” CBS said in its statement. “The issue of unauthorized streaming of copyrighted television programming is now being contested in the 2nd Circuit and the 9th Circuit, and wherever Aereo attempts to operate there will be vigorous challenges to its illegal business model.”

Fox did not publicly comment on Aereo’s move, nor did any other broadcasters. The ongoing legal battle looks to continue in earnest with each successive market Aereo plans to expand to, mainly because the broadcasters contend that Aereo takes a TV signal they offer free over-the-air and sells it to subscribers without consent or compensation. There are also grievances over advertising revenue and recording content that allows viewers to fast-forward past commercials.

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