Appeals Court Says Aereo Streaming TV Service Doesn't Infringe

The New York service combines existing technologies that are legal, the court rules

Streaming television service Aereo does not appear to infringe the copyrights of over-the-air TV stations, and a request from several stations to shut down the New York-based service isn't warranted, an appeals court has ruled.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York was right to deny a request for a preliminary injunction from Fox, ABC, WNET and other TV stations, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Monday.

The TV stations had argued Aereo, a service that allows subscribers to record and play over-the-air TV programs on Internet-connected devices, violated their so-called public performance right, their exclusive right in U.S. copyright law to "to perform the copyrighted work publicly."

But Judge Christopher Droney, writing for the appeals court majority, noted that Aereo makes use of technology already found by courts to be legal. The service combines Aereo-designed mini TV antennas, DVRs, and a Slingbox-like streaming service, he noted.

Aereo users, by making personal copies of TV programs for their own use, were not creating public performances, Droney added.

The TV stations "have not demonstrated that they are likely to prevail on the merits on this claim in their copyright infringement action," Droney wrote in rejecting the request for an injunction against the service. "Nor have they demonstrated serious questions as to the merits and a balance of hardships that tips decidedly in their favor."

Aereo praised the decision. The decision "again validates that Aereo's technology falls squarely within the law, and that's a great thing for consumers who want more choice and flexibility in how, when and where they can watch television," Chet Kanojia, Aereo's CEO and founder, said in a statement.

Lawyers for the TV stations weren't immediately available for comment.

Digital rights group Public Knowledge cheered the ruling, saying it is a "victory for consumer choice and video innovation."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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