Web TV service Aereo lives--no injunctions in sight

The streaming service that delivers over-the-air TV broadcasts went live today, though ABC, CBS, NBC, and other networks sued to try to stop the launch.

One of Aereo's tiny antennas. Matthew Moskovciak/CNET

New Yorkers can watch live broadcast TV via the Web, starting today.

Aereo, the company that streams over-the-air television broadcasts , has made its debut, and that means the many broadcasters that sued the service for copyright violations were unsuccessful at holding up the launch.

The victory may be short lived, however. I'm hearing there's a court proceeding scheduled for May 28 regarding the broadcasters' preliminary injunction request. If granted, Aereo would be forced to shut down while the case plays out in court.

Two weeks ago, most of the top broadcast stations in New York participated in at least one of the two lawsuits filed against Aereo. They asked the court for a preliminary injunction to stop the launch. In their complaints, the broadcasters--including ABC, CBS (parent company of CNET), NBC, Fox, and PBS--allege that Aereo, which charges users $12 per month, violates copyright law by using their broadcasts in an "unauthorized Internet delivery service that is receiving, converting and retransmitting broadcast signals to its subscribers for a fee."

We've seen a string of companies try to use legal loopholes to distribute movies, music, and TV shows over the Web without paying licensing fees. Services such as Zediva and ivi.TV were similar to Aereo and the courts didn't buy their arguments. Both were forced to shut down.

The broadcasters assert that Aereo, or anyone else who wishes to retransmit their signals, must negotiate a license.

Aereo says that over-the-air signals belong to the public. Consumers have the right to watch these signals without charge. The company asserts that all it does is rent each customer a dime-sized antenna that is housed at its facilities and is then controlled by the user via the Internet.

But Barry Diller, who helped create Fox and was chief of Paramount Pictures, is an investor in Aereo. Speaking at the South by Southwest conference in Texas on Monday, Diller said he expects the service to roll out to a minimum of 75 cities within a year.

He said that he knew the broadcasters would try to protect their turf.

"I completely understand their motivation," Diller told the SXSW attendees, according to a story by Bloomberg. "It's going to be a great fight."

Update 11 a.m. PT: To include update on injunction hearing.

 

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