First it was New York, then later Boston and today a new battlefield opened in the legal war between the Barry Diller-backed streaming service and broadcasters. Less than two months after its debut in Utah, Fox Broadcasting along with local stations KSTU-TV, KUTV-TV and KMYU-TV filed a copyright infringement suit (read it here) against Aereo in federal court to get the service shut down. The new jury-demanding suit seeks a preliminary injunction against Aereo and it wants unspecified statutory damages, as well as legal fees and whatever else the court will give the plaintiffs. Launched in NYC last year and already in several other cities across the nation, the much-sued Aereo premiered in Utah on August 19. “Aereo has not been authorized by any of the Plaintiffs to retransmit their copyrighted programming. Even though Aereo is in the business of selling access to the programming broadcast on KSTU, KUTV, KMYU, and other local stations, it pays nothing to the copyright owners. Legitimate retransmission services like cable and satellite companies, in contrast, obtain licenses to retransmit broadcast signals to their subscribers,” says the three-count 16-page filing. “Copyright law, however, does not permit Aereo to appropriate to itself the value of Plaintiffs‟ television programming by retransmitting it over the Internet without proper licenses. It simply does not matter whether Aereo uses one big antenna or hundreds of tiny ones to receive local broadcasts,” the filing adds of what it calls Aereo’s “unlawful conduct.” Fox affiliate KSTU is owned by Local TV, LLC, CBS affiliate KUTV is owned by Sinclair as is MyNetworkTV affiliate KMYU.
“The complaint demonstrates their shared commitment to vigorously protect copyrighted programming from outright theft by opportunistic entities such as Aereo,” said the plaintiffs in a joint statement after the suit was filed Monday. “No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo changes the fundamental principle of law that those who wish to retransmit copyrighted broadcasts may do so only with the copyright owners’ authority,” they added. The plaintiffs are represented by Brent Hatch and Shaunda McNeill of Salt Lake City firm Hatch James & Dodge. Richard Stone, who represents Fox in its lawsuit against Dish Network’s ad-zapping Hopper service, is also on board along with Julie Shepard and Amy Gallegos of LA firm Jenner & Block.