Aereo wins battle against Boston TV station seeking injunction

A federal court denies WCVB's request for a preliminary injunction just as another court had in New York, though Aereo fails to get the case transferred to a circuit where it already has a favorable ruling.

An array of Aereo antennae
Aereo's arrays of dime-sized antennae. Aereo

Another day, another district, another broadcaster fails to halt Aereo's operations.

In US District Court in the District of Massachusetts, Judge Nathaniel Gorton has denied a motion by Hearst and its Boston broadcast TV station, WCVB, for a preliminary injunction against Aereo.

"Hearst has not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits nor the requisite irreparable harm," Gorton said in an ruling dated Tuesday.

Hearst was the latest owner of a TV station to sue Aereo , the startup that delivers over-the-air TV programming to Internet-connected devices. Like others, WCVB filed a suit to stop Aereo from retransmitting its over-the-air signals without a license, claiming the service will harm to the station and violates its copyrights.

However, Gorton also denied Aereo's motion to move the case to the Second Circuit, which includes New York -- where Aereo launched -- and which has already handed Aereo a favorable decision.

A WCVB representative said the station will appeal.

"The court was right to keep this case in Boston, the home of WCVB-TV. We will immediately appeal the court's decision that allows Aereo to continue to engage in a commercial business that unlawfully profits by using WCVB's copyrighted broadcasts and shows. We expect to prevail in this case," he said.

Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said in a statement that the latest decision and others favorable to Aereo together send a clear message.

This "decision, coupled with the decisions in favor of Aereo in the Southern District of New York (July 11, 2013) and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (April 1, 2013 and July 16, 2013), shows that when you comply not only with the letter, but the spirit of the law, justice will prevail," he said. The "victory belongs to the consumer and [the] decision, makes clear that that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television."

This case, which involves a single ABC affiliate, isn't the main battlefield where broadcasters have been waging their fight against Aereo, which is backed by IAC Chairman Barry Diller and uses antenna/DVR technology to let consumers watch live, local over-the-air television broadcasts on some Internet-connected devices. Broadcast giants including ABC, CBS (the parent of CNET), Fox and NBC Universal have sued Aereo in New York, alleging last year that the service violates their copyrights and that Aereo must pay them retransmission fees.

Aereo has been on the winning side of court battles for the most part. In April, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied a preliminary injunction motion from television networks that would have prevented Aereo from transmitting recorded broadcast television programs to its subscribers, similar to the Boston ruling this week.

The networks followed up by requesting the case be reheard before a full panel of judges, but the majority decided not to rehear the case. However, a dissenting opinion calling Aereo a "sham."

TV networks are said to be preparing an appeal to the US Supreme Court .

Updated at 8:02 a.m. PT with Aereo's statement.

 

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