Broadcasters seek to snuff out Aereo before District Court ruling [Update]

Aereo devices
It seems Aereo could be nearing the end of the road and, considering it’s barely hanging on by the skin of its teeth now, broadcasters see this as the perfect opportunity to finally put an end to the drawn-out conflict. According to a report by Broadcasting & Cable, the service’s big network nemeses are hoping to convince the U.S. District Court in New York to impose a nationwide injunction on Aereo, effectively burying any chance that the service may have had to return to business.

Updated 8/22/2014 by Ryan Waniata: Another avenue for Aereo was blocked today, as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, a Federal appellate court, denied Aereo’s appeal of a preliminary injunction on the service. The denial of the appeal is anything but surprising, given that the highest federal court in the land, the Supreme Court, already demanded Aereo shutdown operations. In effect, today’s decision only emphasizes the importance of Aereo’s final plea for reclassification as a cable operator by the U.S. District Court in New York.

A letter issued today by Federal Clerk Clatherine O’Hagan put Aereo’s fate in the District Court’s hands succinctly. “We leave it to the district court to consider whether the issues are poperly raised in these cases…” In other words, all roads point to the court in New York for Aereo’s last-ditch effort to remain in business.

Last month the streaming video startup, whose service the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to be in violation of copyrights held by major broadcasters, was denied a compulsory license to broadcast network TV content as a cable operator would. The license in question – a Section 111: Statutory License for Secondary Transmissions by Cable Systems – is the same license that must be obtained by cable companies to be able to carry network feeds. While the U.S Copyright Office refused Aereo’s request for a compulsory license, it did grant the streaming startup the ability to pay royalty fees in exchange for content “on a provisional basis.”

Related: Aereo CEO asks supporters to let slip the dogs of social media war

But Aereo still hasn’t given up its efforts to be reclassified as a cable company, and now the company is simply waiting for the New York District Court’s ruling on the matter. Aereo, which made its living by re-transmitting network broadcasts to computers and mobile devices via tiny antennae, has been trying everything in its power to get back in business since the Supreme Court shut it down. Since the Court compared the service anectdotally to a cable provider, the service has been striving to gain approval as a cable provider to keep afloat.

Related: Aereo claims cable company status to restart operations

However, the big-boy networks want to end this battle before Aereo even has a chance to legitimize its business model. Legal representatives of the major broadcasters involved (including Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, and others) have said that “it is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court’s decision automatically transformed Aereo into a ‘cable system’ under the law,” and that perspective isn’t necessarily far from the truth.

Aereo, as a means of retroactively validating its own actions, keeps attempting to harken back to the Supreme Court’s overruling of a lower court’s decision in which similar streaming startup Ivi wasn’t allowed to be classified as a cable system under the Copyright Act’s stipulations.

But even if Aereo manages to convince the District Court to consider the service’s new claim to be valid through legal precedent, it will still need approval from the FCC and Copyright Office before obtaining cable operator classification. And even then, as the Washington Post touches on in its coverage of the situation, the big broadcasters still want more money than the amount they’d get through collection of royalty fees from Aereo.

We’ll continue to follow this story as it develops, so check back with us for any updates on the District Court’s decision regarding Aereo’s fate.


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