Aereo Sues to Block Threatened Copyright Suits by CBS

Aereo Inc., the Barry Diller-backed online TV service, sued to block CBS Corp. from filing threatened copyright suits to try to stop Aereo from selling broadcasters’ programming online without permission.

Citing published reports that CBS plans to sue in Boston and other cities where Aereo is to begin service, the online TV company asked a Manhattan federal court to declare that the service doesn’t violate the television network’s copyrights. The broadcasters last month failed to persuade a federal appeals court in New York to shut down New York-based Aereo.

“The threatened follow-on suits would involve the same technology, involve the same witnesses, and implicate the same legal and factual issues” as the New York litigation, Aereo claimed in a complaint filed today. CBS shouldn’t be allowed to seek “do-overs” in other courts, Aereo said.

The broadcast networks, including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and Comcast Corp.’s NBC, sued Aereo in March 2012, claiming that the company infringed copyrights by capturing their over-the-air signals and retransmitting the programming to subscribers on computers and smartphones.

Aereo’s service threatens to devalue their programming and cut viewership, jeopardizing revenue from advertisers and retransmission payments from pay-TV providers, according to the networks. Aereo’s transmissions are public performances and require licenses, they claimed.

‘Public Relations’

“These public relations and legal maneuvers do not change the fundamentally illegal nature of Aereo’s supposed business,” Dana McClintock, a spokesman for New York-based CBS, said in an e-mail, adding that the service is being contested before two federal appeals courts. “Wherever Aereo attempts to operate there will be vigorous challenges to its illegal business model.”

The case is Aereo Inc. v. CBS Broadcasting Inc., 13-cv-03013, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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