Aereo: It’s Fine By Us If The Networks Want To Take Us Before The Supreme Court

You know those arguments where you’re certain you’re right, so when the other person says “Well, let’s just go look up the answer,” you are more than happy to oblige? That appears to be the attitude of streaming video startup Aereo, which today said it will not try to stop the broadcast networks from taking their complaint to the Supreme Court.

“We have decided to not oppose the broadcasters’ petition for certiorari before the United States Supreme Court,” said Aereo Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia in a statement. “While the law is clear and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and two different federal courts have ruled in favor of Aereo, broadcasters appear determined to keep litigating the same issues against Aereo in every jurisdiction that we enter. We want this resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition.”

As we mentioned earlier today, broadcasters alleged that Aereo — which captures freely available over-the-air network signals via arrays of tiny antennae each dedicated to a single online end-user — violates their copyright by failing to get permission or pay retransmission fees. In each region where Aereo has been deployed, the networks have filed federal lawsuits and requests for injunctions to stop the company from offering service. So far, the networks have not been successful.

Earlier this year, Aereo scored a major win with the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with Aereo’s contention that its service is no different than when someone places a dedicated TV antenna on his roof.

Realizing that it was going to eventually end up before the Supreme Court anyway, the networks recently appealed to the court, asking it to hear the case as soon as possible, without going through the various layers of the legal system that would normally be required.

In their appeal, the broadcasters attack the cloud-based DVR service offered by Aereo makes it different than your standard antenna. In 2006, broadcasters sued Cablevision over its cloud-based DVR service. The Second Circuit ruled in 2008 that the DVR did not violate the broadcasters’ copyright, and the Supreme Court subsequently refused to hear an appeal of the case.

Earlier today, Cablevision warned that the broadcasters’ appeal in the Aereo case could undermine that ruling and be a huge problem for all cloud-based technology.

“The long-standing landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision has served as a crucial underpinning to the cloud computing and cloud storage industry,” says Kanojia. “The broadcasters’ filing makes clear that they are using Aereo as a proxy to attack Cablevision itself.”

Executives at both CBS and FOX have said they will take their networks off the airwaves and go cable-only if Aereo wins in court. At the same time, companies like DirecTV and Time Warner Cable have been developing their own Aereo-like technology in the hopes of getting around the huge retransmission fees they have to pay to broadcast networks.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.