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Aereo Says Law Already Permits Its Online TV Service

Aereo Inc., whose service relays network television shows to online viewers, asked a New York judge in a copyright lawsuit by Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, CBS Corp. and other broadcasters to rule that its business is legal.

The request, in a filing yesterday in Manhattan federal court, comes after the broadcasters, who failed to get courts to halt Aereo’s service, asked the U.S. Supreme Court last month to weigh in.

Aereo uses thousands of small antennas to capture free over-the-air TV signals and transmit them to paying subscribers on the Internet. The company gives members access to remote equipment and functionality that they could otherwise have and use at home, according to the filing.

“This case involves nothing more than the application of settled law to updated technology -- settled law that establishes conclusively that Aereo’s business is entirely lawful,” the New York-based company said in the filing, denying the broadcasters’ copyright claims.

Aereo, backed by Barry Diller, threatens $3 billion in fees that broadcast station owners will receive this year from pay-TV systems to provide signals to subscribers. The broadcasters say Aereo violates their copyrights by capturing their signals and sending them to customers without permission.

‘Sufficient Likelihood’

Federal judges in Boston and New York so far have permitted Aereo to operate during legal challenges. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston last month wrote that the broadcasters hadn’t “demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits” to justify an injunction.

U.S. law already entitles consumers to pick up local TV broadcasts on the public airwaves using individual antennas, to copy those broadcasts for their own personal use and to play back those recordings, according to Aereo’s filing. Aereo technology does the same thing, the company said.

In October, 21st Century Fox Inc., Univision Communications Inc., the Public Broadcasting Service and station WNET, and New York’s Tribune Co.-owned WPIX petitioned the Supreme Court for a ruling that Aereo is an illegal operation.

The cases in New York are American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo Inc., 12-cv-01540, WNET v. Aereo Inc., 12-cv-01543, and Aereo Inc. v. CBS Broadcasting Inc., 13-cv-03013, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan). The case in Boston is Hearst Stations Inc. v. Aereo Inc., 13-cv-11649, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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