Aereo, a streaming service that allows customers to record TV programs
and watch them later on any Internet-connected device, came out on top in court Monday when an appeals court ruled that the technology did not constitute copyright infringement.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided Monday that a lawsuit brought by television networks arguing that Aereo's service is illegal should be thrown out. The court found that the networks "have not demonstrated that they are likely to prevail on the merits of this claim in their copyright infringement action."
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As described by TechHive, Aereo subscribers lease their own tiny TV antenna, which Aereo stores remotely at its own facility. Aereo then streams the video to desktop Web browsers, iOS devices, and set-top boxes such as the Apple TV and Roku. The service also includes online DVR functionality.
The appeals court didn’t buy broadcasters’ argument that Aereo counts as a “public performance,” therefore requiring the networks’ consent to transmit, according to TechHive. The court noted that each Aereo user is assigned a separate antenna and individual DVR storage, and that broadcasters failed to argue why Aereo is any less private than a traditional TV antenna.
The Computer and Communications Industry Association filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of Aereo.
"This case was not just about broadcast television; it was a test of the legitimacy of the cloud computing industry," CCIA President and CEO Ed Black said in a statement. "Today, the Second Circuit agreed with us that users should be able to access their own, lawfully-acquired content in the cloud without the fear of being branded pirates."
A U.S. District Court ruled last year that the claims brought by NBC, ABC, and CBS that alleged copyright infringement were invalid. The networks appealed, arguing that Aereo's antenna is illegal.
With a victory in hand, Aereo reportedly has plans for expansion, including rumored deals with Dish Network and AT&T.
"As technology evolves, the battles to block it are unfortunately similar to those faced decades ago. Too often still, some entrenched businesses would rather sue than evolve," Black said. "We saw that in the 1980s when TV and movie makers tried to block the Betamax so consumers couldn't record content to watch later and again with the Aereo case as more people use the Internet to watch programs later. Today's ruling is a victory for consumers, but also for the growing cloud industry that will now be able to better offer opportunities for them to watch the content they want on the device of their choice."
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