Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Intellectual Property

Victory for U.S. TV-streaming site

A U.S. appeals court has allowed an Internet-based TV service to continue operating despite broadcasters’ requests it be shut down, and while it appears similar to a defunct Canadian service shuttered by court injunctions, technical differences separate the two, says Toronto lawyer Kevin Fisher.

“Aereo, an Internet-based personal steaming TV service, won a huge victory in the New York Federal Court of Appeals, which upheld an earlier decision refusing an injunction request brought by 17 TV stations which sought to block the service almost as soon as it launched a year ago,” says Fisher, litigation partner with Basman Smith LLP.

“The service is currently only available in New York and allows subscribers to watch local over-the-air TV channels through the Internet and on mobile devices for about $80 a year.”

The New York court, in a 35-page ruling, said that by using a network of thousands of dime-sized TV antennas and individual recording devices, Aereo doesn’t violate copyright laws that prohibit cable operators from providing “public performances” without a licence, Forbes reports.  Read Forbes

Under a previous decision in favour of Cablevision's remote digital video recorders, the court said, it had no choice but to allow Aereo to proceed, the article says.

“While this service seems similar to iCraveTV operated out of Canada over a decade ago, which was shuttered by court injunctions, there are a number of technical differences in how the Aereo service works which allowed it to succeed to defeat the initial attack against it,” says Fisher.

“One technical difference is Aereo’s system of using racks of multiple antennas as the basis to carry the over-the-air signal to subscribers to avoid having to pay retransmission fees, which are an important revenue source for major TV operators.

“The court held that Aereo’s streams of TV shows using this service did not constitute public performances and therefore the claims of copyright infringement were not likely to prevail on the merits.”

With the success of the ruling, Aereo states on its website that it has plans to launch its service in 22 more cities this year, says Fisher.

“The major broadcasters are certain to continue their fight but they may have a new player they have to contend with,” he says.

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