IAC Chairman Barry Diller defends Aereo, the new streaming device broadcasters say will be stealing their content. The services launches Thursday in New York
Barry Diller isn't shrinking from his battle with broadcasters over Aereo, his new streaming device that allows anyone to watch and record TV shows on the Internet via a dime-sized antenna.
"It's going to be a great fight," Diller told a panel at the SXSW Film Festival Sunday. The service is scheduled to go live in New York on Thursday.
Roughly two weeks ago in New York, the company was slapped with a pair of lawsuits by NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, PBS and Univision that charged copyright violation.
Aereo works by picking up broadcast signals over clusters of tiny antennas and sending them via the internet to users' mobile devices, computers or tablets for $12 a month.
"This is not some evil thing," said Diller at SXSW. "This is absolutely predictable. Media companies have hegemony over it (broadcast TV) and they want to protect it."
The networks insist that because Aereo is setting itself up as a direct competitor, it needs their consent to stream their programming.
"No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo — or claims that it is simply providing a set of sophisticated "rabbit ears" — changes the fundamental principle of copyright laws that those who wish to retransmit Plaintiffs' broadcasts may do so only with Plaintiffs authority," a suit filed by Fox, PBS and Univision reads.
In a statement, CBS, ABC and NBC were even more direct.
"This service is based on the illegal use of our content. Beyond that, we believe the complaint speaks for itself," the networks said.
Diller, the chairman of IAC//InterActive Corp. which is among Aereo's backers, said he believes that the law is on his side because broadcasting was established to be licensed with no one in the middle.
"So long as you have an address, you have a right to public broadcasting," said Diller.
He said he met with a group of broadcasters in N.Y. to discuss the issue of retransmission fees.
"I said to the broadcasters, 'One thing that might happen is you'll get more audience,'" said Diller. "They said, 'That's fine. Now pay us retransmission money.' I said, 'When you get Radio Shack to pay you some slice of their profit when they sell an aerial, we'll pay you anything you like, but we're not transmitting anything.'"
The two suits were filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and asks for injunctive relief and damages.
Diller's comments were first reported by CNET's Paul Sloan.