TV Startup Aereo Countersues Big Broadcaster
A tech startup that's aiming to change the way people access and watch TV programming is fighting back after being subjected to numerous lawsuits from some of the largest broadcasting companies. The company, called Aereo, filed a lawsuit Monday against CBS Corp. in federal court in Manhattan after the broadcaster said it would pursue further legal action to shut Aereo down.
In addition to CBS, broadcasters including ABC and Fox have been fighting Aereo, claiming the company is stealing their programming and re-selling it. Aereo uses miniature, internet-connected antennas to let customers stream live TV to any type of device -- a mobile phone, tablet, computer or smart TV. Aereo charges $1 for daily access and $80 for a 12-month prepaid subscription.
Aereo doesn't pay broadcasters since the signals it is capturing are already freely available to individuals. Aereo argues that its antennas are legally no different than the ones people already use to watch TV in their own homes.
"About 54 million Americans use some sort of antenna to watch TV," the company said in a recent blog post. "This is not piracy. This has been part of the American way since the beginning of broadcasting."
In its lawsuit, Aereo is seeking judgment that its service does not violate federal copyright laws or infringe CBS's copyrights. It is also asking that the judgment be applied nationwide. As of now, Aereo's service is available only in the metropolitan area of New York City, but Aereo plans to bring it to Boston later this month.
While Aereo has been fortunate so far -- federal judges in New York turned down broadcaster requests for an injunction to stop Aereo from operating -- it may face new challenges as it expands beyond New York. Last month, CBS communications executive Dana McClintock tweeted: "Stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston, just as it will be everywhere else."
Aereo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.