A federal judge in the Southern District of New York has denied a request for preliminary relief in a major lawsuit against the Aereo.
The Barry Diller-backed subscription service provided mobile users access to broadcast signals in New York City for a monthly subscription. In response broadcasters sued Aereo citing copyright violations because the company did not get their permission to retransmit the signals or pay them for their content.
The decision was clearly a lost battle for broadcasters, though the war is not over.
"Based on the evidence at this stage of the proceedings," said Judge Alison Nathan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, "the Court finds that Aereo's antennas function independently. That is to say, each antenna separately receives the incoming broadcast signal, rather than functioning collectively with the other antennas or with the assistance of the shared metal substructure."
The judge also found no appreciable difference between Aereo and Cablevision Systems' Remote Storage DVR, which the Second Circuit court of appeals concluded did not violate copyright protections. In fact, the court relied heavily on that precedent, with the judge saying that without that decision, plaintiffs -- broadcasters -- would likely have prevailed in their request for a preliminary injunction.
"Contrary to Plaintiffs' arguments," said the judge, "the copies Aereo's system creates are not materially distinguishable from those in Cablevision, which found that the transmission was made from those copies rather than from the incoming signal. Moreover, Plaintiffs' attempt to distinguish Cablevision based on time-shifting fails when confronted with the reasoning of that case, particularly considering that the Second Circuit's analysis was directly focused on the significance of Cablevision's copies but did not say one word to suggest that time-shifting played any part in its holding.
"Plaintiffs have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits," the judge ruled. "And although they have demonstrated that they face irreparable harm, they have not demonstrated that the balance of hardships decidedly tips in their favor. As such, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction."
"Today's decision shows that when you are on the right side of the law, you can stand up, fight the Goliath and win," said Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia in a statement. "This isn't just a win for Aereo, it's also a significant win for consumers who are demanding more choice and flexibility in the way they watch television. We said from the start that we believed that a full and fair airing of the issues would reveal that Aereo's groundbreaking technology falls squarely within the law. We are grateful to the court for its thoughtful and measured approach to this matter. Today's decision should serve as a signal to the public that control and choice are moving back into the hands of the consumer -- that's a powerful statement."
In response to the ruling, the plaintiffs in the suit, which include WNET, Thirteen, Fox Television Stations, Inc, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, WPIX, Univision Television Group, Inc., The Univision Network Limited Partnership and Public Broadcasting Service, issued a statement saying: "Today's decision is a loss for the entire creative community. The judge has denied our request for preliminary relief -- ruling that it is ok to misappropriate copyrighted material and retransmit it without compensation. While we are disappointed, we will continue to fight to protect our copyrights and expect to prevail on appeal."