The Barry Diller-backed Aereo got a big legal win from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals today, but broadcasters vow to fight on. The federal court says a U.S. District judge was right last year to refuse broadcasters an injunction against the controversial service that streams broadcasters’ over-the-air signals to its subscribers. “We conclude that Aereo’s transmissions of unique copies of broadcast television programs created at its users’ requests and transmitted while the programs are still airing on broadcast television are not “public performances” of the Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works under Cablevision,” said Judge Christopher Droney writing for the majority (read it here). Said Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia in a statement after the ruling: “We may be a small start-up, but we’ve always believed in standing up and fighting for our consumers. We are grateful for the court’s thoughtful analysis and decision and we look forward to continuing to build a successful business that puts consumers first.”
The court’s decision was not unanimous. “Aereo’s ‘technology platform’ is, however, a sham,” Judge Denny Chin wrote in a dissent. That at least provided some comfort to Fox Television Stations Inc, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Wpix Inc., Univision Television Group Inc, the Univision Network Limited Partnership, WNET, Thirteen, and Public Broadcasting Service. “Today’s decision is a loss for the entire creative community”, said the plaintiffs in a statement this morning. “The court has ruled that it is OK to steal copyrighted material and retransmit it without compensation. While we are disappointed with this decision, we have and are considering our options to protect our programming. In the meantime, we plan to move forward towards a trial on the merits of the case, and on claims that were not impacted by this appeal. We remain confident that we will ultimately prevail”.
Among the disappointed was the National Association of Broadcasters. “NAB is disappointed with the Second Circuit’s 2-1 decision allowing Aereo to continue its illegal operations while broadcasters’ copyright actions are heard. We agree with Judge Chin’s vigorous dissent and, along with our members, will be evaluating the opinions and options going forward”, it said. Meanwhile, digital rights advocacy group Public Knowledge called today’s decision “a victory for consumer choice and video innovation”.