They have been given a date. The broadcasters and Aereo will argue their case before the Supreme Court on April 22 at 11 AM, the court announced today. SCOTUS agreed on January 10 to hear arguments on the petition that ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and several other broadcasters submitted in October. The broadcasters want the High Court to review an April 1, 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York that confirmed a District Court decision and rejected their request for a preliminary injunction against the Barry Diller-backed streaming service. However, there are still a few more steps before the parties show up in Washington D.C. Briefs are due from the broadcasters on February 24 and March 3. Aereo must submit its response to the petitioner’s brief by March 26 and send in an amicus curiae brief of its own by April 2. Like in the decision by the Court to hear the case in early January, Justice Samuel Alito will be recused from the April arguments because his family owns Disney stock. He’s “considered to be pro-business/conservative, so this could be viewed favorably for Aereo,” says Susquehanna Financial Group’s Thomas Claps. If the remaining eight justices split equally, then the District Court’s pro-Aereo decision would stand.
While not the final word on the dispute between the parties, this case could put the future of the airwaves and the TV industry itself in play. In its December 11 response brief to the broadcasters’ petition, Aereo said it welcomed the move to SCOTUS as a way of settling the various suits in various jurisdictions and markets that the broadcasters have instigated over the past two years since the service first launched in NYC. The broadcasters claim that Aereo infringes on their copyrights by streaming their over-the-air signals without licenses or compensation. Aereo says that it simply leases out antennas and technology that consumers can already use to watch broadcast TV for free.