New York TV Stations Are Suing Startup Backed by IAC

A number of New York television stations are up in arms about Aereo, a startup that in a nutshell, lets consumers access network television on web-enabled devices and internet TV platforms. Does that mean you can catch the game on your phone? Game changer indeed. One that Barry Diller of IAC, which led the startup’s most recent round of funding, saw value in.

The problem: Subscribers to Aereo would have access to all major networks including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, CW, and PBS and other local channels and these networks weren’t too happy with this technological solution. They banded together and filed two lawsuits that seek to stop the product’s forthcoming March 14 release in addition to monetary damages, reports the New York Times.

“This case is not about stifling new video distribution technologies,” said the owners of Fox, CW, Univision, and PBS in a statement, “but about stopping a company from violating our copyrights and redistributing our television programming without permission or compensation.”

According to the New York Times, Aereo has said that their product is legal “because it was assigning an individual antenna to each subscriber, thereby sidestepping laws that restrict community antenna uses.”

Aereo has since responded to the lawsuits:

Today, two groups of broadcasters filed two separate federal lawsuits against Aereo in the Southern District of New York claiming that Aereo will infringe their copyrights by making available technology which enables consumers to access broadcast television via a remote antenna and DVR.  Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues.

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.

Aereo very much looks forward to its upcoming product launch as well as a prompt resolution of these cases.

Will this turn out to be a noteworthy battle?