Tags: aereo | nfl | mlb | petition | free | service

NFL, MLB Support Broadcasters' Petition Against Free TV Service

Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013 02:19 PM

By Lisa Barron

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The National Football League and Major League Baseball are backing broadcast television networks in their legal battle against TV-over-internet service Aereo.

For $8 a month, Aereo converts television signals into computer data and sends them over the Internet to subscribers' computers and mobile devices.

A consortium of major broadcasters, including Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS, last month asked the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the service, and now the sports leagues have filed a brief in support of their motion, CNN Money reports.

The networks claim that Aereo's service constitutes copyright infringement and have filed lawsuits in several states since its February 2012 launch, but in each case they have lost.

In their brief, the NFL and MLB argued that if Aereo is allowed to continue operating as it does, it might mean the end of games on free TV, reports Variety.

"If copyright holders lose their exclusive retransmission licensing rights and the substantial benefits derived from those rights when they place programming on broadcast stations, those stations will become less attractive mediums for distributing copyrighted content," the leagues reportedly said in their brief.

It stated that the leagues collect roughly a third of the $300 million broadcasters get from license fees paid by cable and satellite outlets.

"The option for copyright holders will be to move that content to paid cable networks (such as ESPN and TNT) where Aereo-like services cannot hijack and exploit their programming without authorization," they added.

The leagues also argued that Aereo can offer free packaging of sports games, while they create packages through exclusive agreements.

"The court's intervention is now necessary to restore clarity and certainty in this area and to prevent the unraveling of a marketplace built upon the licensing of rights rather than the expropriation of such rights through technological chicanery," said the brief.

Aereo, which is backed by Barry Diller's IAC, has argued that its service is a legal private transmission operating like a DVR. It has until Dec. 12 to file a brief of its own.

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