The Supreme Court rejected FilmOn X’s request Monday to formally intervene in the fight over web transmission issues between Aereo TV and major broadcasters, which the court is set to hear April 22.
Without any comment, justices court denied FilmOn’s request to become a party in the case. The decision means that FilmOn won’t get time to offer its own comments during oral argument in Aereo’s case. Instead FilmOn’s will have to make any arguments in friend of the court briefs.
FilmOn had asked the court for permission to intervene, arguing that any Aereo decision could have significant impacts on its business model. FilmOn said unique elements of its own legal fight wouldn’t be adequately represented by Aereo.
FilmOn pointed especially to its inability to appeal two lower court decisions blocking it from offering local TV stations over the web even in some areas where a court has permitted Aereo to offer the same stations. Appeals courts in the District of Columbia and in San Francisco have put in abeyance decisions on FilmOn’s challenge of lower court rulings pending the Supreme Court’ Aereo’s decision.
“At this time FilmOn X is without an appellate remedy [and] is forced to rely on Aereo–a business competitor with economic incentive to leave the injunctions against FilmOn X undisturbed–to represent FilmOn X’s interests before this court,” FilmOn told the court in making the request to intervene.
In the Aereo case, broadcasters including ABC, CBS, NBC Universal, Fox, PBS, Univision and WPIX are challenging the legality of Aereo’s use of thousands of mini-TV antennas on antenna farms to air local TV stations over the web. Aereo contends that it is not retransmitting TV station signals because each subscriber has his own antenna. TV networks contend Aereo is retransmitting signals and engaged in copyright violations.
The Aereo case could have significant impacts on TV networks bid to create an alternative revenue stream from advertising by charging cable systems retransmission fees to air local TV stations. If Aereo wins its case, cable systems could avoid the fees by simply installing their own antenna farms.
At the Supreme Court, the Aereo case is expected to be decided by just eight of the nine justices.
Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. recused himself when the court was deciding whether to take Aereo’s case and he again recused himself in today’s ruling. That is usually an indication of a conflict that would also prevent the justice from rendering any opinion in the case.