After a series of legal victories over the broadcasting industry, Aereo's free run has finally come to an end. According to an LATimes report, an Utah federal court on Wednesday has imposed a preliminary injunction on the company's operations, as sought by Fox Broadcasting Co. and other TV station owners, due to copyright issues. This essentially means that Aereo will have to shut down its Utah and Colorado operations.
Launched in 2012, Aereo is a startup company backed by billionaire Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp. The company provides online television services by retransmitting broadcast television signals to consumers via the Internet. While the company charges a low monthly fee from its users, it does not pay broadcasters.
While broadcasters argue that the startup violates the Copyright Act's transmit clause, which spells out when a performance should be considered "public", Aereo says its service is a private performance, as each user is assigned to a tiny remote antenna.
More recently, a federal appeals court in New York last year sided with Aereo in a similar lawsuit. The Utah ruling is important not only because it is the first time a court has sided with broadcasters in their fight against Aereo, but also because it comes just a couple of months before the Supreme court is scheduled to hear broadcast networks' case against the startup.
"This is a significant win for both broadcasters and content owners," a Fox spokesman said in a statement. While on the other hand, Chet Kanojia, founder of Aereo, said the company is "extremely disappointed that the District Court in Utah has chosen to take a different path than every other court that has reviewed the Aereo technology."