On March 14, 2012, a company named Aereo is hoping to launch a service that takes over-the-air broadcast television signals, and repurpose them for internet consumption. Simply put, Aereo plans to make broadcast television available on laptops, tablets and smartphones. Customers (initially in New York City) will have to pay $12 a month for this service, which isn’t a lot to ask considering they’re also getting access to an online DVR to record their shows in HD. However, Aereo is facing a lawsuit brought on by PBS, Fox, Univision and WNET that claims Aereo doesn’t have the right to operate such a service.
The plaintiff’s main complaint is that Aereo lacks the proper licenses to the programs it’s planning on providing to its customers. They also said Aereo did not ask for permission to use the signals that beam these broadcasts to Aereo’s antennas.
“No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo – or claims that it is simply providing a set of sophisticated “rabbit ears” – changes the fundamental principle of copyright law that those who wish to retransmit Plantiffs’ broadcasts may do so only with Plantiffs’ authority,” the lawsuit reads.
Aereo responded to the lawsuit on its website.
“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,” the company said. “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.”
The broadcasters are seeking damages and an injunction to prevent Aereo from launching.