A year less a day after the Barry Diller-backed streaming service argued in front of the Supreme Court over the broadcasters’ claims of copyright violation, the now Chapter 11 Aereo hopes its come to the end of the long legal road. The shuttered company and its nemeses have come to a deal that will see Aereo pay out $950,000 to ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, Telemundo and others so they will end their legal pursuit of the Chet Kanojia founded tech firm.
Filed today, the still to be approved settlement is a far cry from the $99 million in copyright infringement claims that the various broadcasters had made against Aereo. But with just $1.55 million raised in the auctioning off of the company’s assets to Tivo and others, there was only so much blood anyone was going to get from this stone. “The Settlement avoids protracted, expensive litigation and is in the paramount of interests of creditors because it allows for the confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan,” said an April 20 joint motion from the debtor and creditor’s committee (read it here). A hearing has been set for May 7 (read it here) before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean H, Lane on approval of the settlement. The broadcasters also still have another week to file any last objections to the sale of Aereo’s assets – though this settlement proposal makes that seem unlikely.
Overall, this whimper is a long way from the big bang Aero made heading to Washington D.C. to present arguments before the Justices on April 22 last year. “This Court should not rewrite the Copyright Act in an effort to protect petitioners from lawful and logical advancements in technology or from the economic consequences of their transmitting works for free over the public airwaves,” the company said in a March 25 brief.
After a series of wins in the courts since launching in February 2012, Aereo’s streaming of live TV to its paying subscribers was unplugged by the SCOTUS by a 6-3 decision released on June 25 last year. At the time, Diller had said if the High Court found against the company’s public performance argument, it would be “over.” And, by fairly quick degrees it was, with Aereo ending its services, shutting offices and finally filing for bankruptcy protection in November last year.
William R. Baldiga and R. Benjamin Chapman of Brown Rudnick LLP are representing Aereo. The broadcasters are represented by the combined strength of Richard L. Stone Patrick Trostle, Catherine Steege, Julie A. Shepard and Amy M. Gallegos of Jenner & Block LLP plus Bruce P. Keller, Michael Potenza and M. Natasha Labovitz of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP and Thompson & Knight LLP’s Michael Blumenthal and Jennifer Christian.