Aereo’s Internet TV Service Infringes Copyright, Networks Claim

Aereo Inc. will violate copyrights with its service for subscribers in New York City to watch broadcast television programs on personal computers and smartphones, television networks said.

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and other networks said in two separate complaints filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan that Aereo has no right to any of the programs that it offers through its subscription-only Internet service scheduled to start March 14.

“Although other distributors, including cable and satellite operators and telephone companies, pay to retransmit the same programming, Aereo’s business is based on circumventing the carefully balanced distribution system mandated by congress,” the networks said. “That is infringement.”

The networks seek a court order blocking Aereo’s service as well as unspecified damages.

Aereo, based in Long Island City, New York, is backed in part by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp. The company lets its subscribers access network television broadcasts and local stations on web-enabled devices with a remote antenna and digital video recorder. The company’s membership fee is $12 a month.

“Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues,” Mike Schroeder, a company spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use.”

The cases are American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, 12-1540, and WNET v. Aereo, 12-1543, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan.)

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