Hearst Loses Pretrial Effort to Bar Aereo Video-Streaming

A Hearst-owned television station failed to stop Aereo Inc. from streaming video as the online TV service faces copyright-infringement lawsuits from broadcast networks.

Hearst Stations Inc., operator of WCVB-TV near Boston, sued Aereo in July and accused it of violating copyrights by capturing signals and sending them to customers without permission.

“Hearst has not demonstrated a sufficient likelihood of success on the merits nor the requisite irreparable harm” for an injunction, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston said in an Oct. 8 ruling. Hearst filed a notice today that it is appealing the decision.

Hearst, based in New York, owns 29 broadcast stations in the U.S., and major revenue sources include advertising and fees paid for the right to resell programming, according to Gorton’s opinion. Aereo, based in New York, transmits TV over the Internet to paying customers.

“When you comply not only with the letter but the spirit of the law, justice will prevail,” Aereo founder and Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia said in a statement after the ruling. “‘Today’s victory belongs to the consumer, and today’s decision makes clear that that there is no reason that consumers should be limited to 1950s technology to access over-the-air broadcast television.”

Broadcast networks, including CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, sued Aereo in New York in March 2012. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan rejected the networks’ motion for an injunction that would have shut down the service, and a panel of New York appeals judges upheld that ruling in April.

Gorton’s decision lets Aereo continue a business that “unlawfully profits” from copyrighted material, Paul Luthringer, a WCVB spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. Hearst Stations is part of Hearst Corp.

The case is Hearst Stations v. Aereo, 13-cv-11649, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

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