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The NFL Gives Aereo a Playbook for Spoiling Its TV Money Machine

Aereo’s antenna farms have been driving broadcasters crazy for some time, and now the National Football League and Major League Baseball have jumped in to do battle against the Internet-TV startup. The leagues last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that Aereo is illegal and warned that the young company’s continued operation could ultimately end free broadcasts of major sports on network television, which could lead to the leagues instead striking deals with cable-TV channels.

The friend-of-the-court brief from the NFL and MLB was filed last week—and first reported over the weekend by Variety—in a case brought by the major TV broadcasters. Aereo works by selling subscribers access to content captured by miniature antennas assigned specifically to each user, with the recordings streamed over the Internet. The argument laid out in the brief is similar to the one broadcasters have been making for a while: Aereo’s Rube Goldberg-esque scheme is “neither technologically efficient nor innovative,” the sports leagues assert. “It has no purpose other than to avoid compensating the copyright owners whose programming Aereo exploits.” The brief also says that a permissive attitude toward Aereo violates treaties in which the U.S. has agreed to prohibit Internet retransmissions of copyrighted broadcast material without the consent of the owners of that content.