Aereo shuts down in the West

Michelle Clancy | 11-03-2014

Internet-based TV service Aereo has shut down in Denver and Salt Lake City.

The expected shutdown follows a ruling by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver affirming a preliminary injunction by US Circuit Judge Dale Kimball, who ruled that Aereo violates US copyright law because it streams local broadcast TV signals over the Internet without paying retransmission fees to broadcasters.

Aereo is headed to the Supreme Court in April to defend its right to exist. Aereo has counter-argued that because it provides dime-sized antennae to its subscribers — who pay $8 per month for access to a couple dozen channels — it constitutes an over-the-air, rabbit ears-based service, which is exempt from retrans fees. It has also argues that its content is delivered to a single cloud-based DVR device for one subscriber and can therefore not be categorised as a public broadcast service, subject to fees and regulations.

So far, it has mostly succeeded in its arguments, winning legal challenges in a handful of cases. In Boston, Federal Judge Nathaniel M Gorton has issued a ruling in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts in a suit brought by Hearst Stations on behalf of its local TV station, WCVB-TV. The judge denied the plaintiff its motion for a preliminary injunction against Aereo.

"We are very sorry for the effect that this decision has on you and we look forward to presenting our case to the US Supreme Court and ultimately restoring your ability to use Aereo," company founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said.

Aereo issued a full refund to customers in the two markets for the month.

"Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via a modern antenna and to record copies for their personal use," Kanojia's e-mail continued. "The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located equipment."