Broadcasters are expanding their legal attack on Aereo-like services that let consumers view broadcast channels on the web without stations getting a retransmission fee payment.
Owners of Washington, D.C., TV stations — including Fox, NBC, ABC and Albritton Communications — filed suit in federal district court in Washington on Thursday against Aereokiller and its parent company FilmOn.TV Networks, alleging Aereokiller is engaged in copyright infringement in retransmitting the stations’ signals.
“The purpose of this action is to restrain defendants from exploiting without authorization and violating plaintiffs rights in some of the most valuable intellectual rights is some of the most valuable intellectual property created in the United States,” says the suit.
Like Aereo, Aereokiller uses thousands of tiny local antennas to gather signals from local TV stations and provide them to subscribers.
Both companies say that because each subscriber has his own antenna, their systems don’t retransmit signals, and neither pays the retransmission fees that cable systems pay to offer broadcast channels on their systems.
Aereokiller, which operates in Dallas, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas and D.C., is controlled by FilmOn’s Alki David, who has filed a suit accusing Aereo’s Barry Diller of stealing the “Aereo” name.
Broadcasters have mounted a fierce legal attacks to stop the services. They’ve warned that the services threaten their retransmission fees and several network officials have raised the possibility of moving broadcast content to cable if the services aren’t stopped in court.
So far, the legal attacks have had mixed success.
In New York, an appellate panel rejected broadcasters' request for a restraining order to stop Aereo from offering its service. After several broadcasters threatened to bring additional suits, Aereo has asked a court to issue a declaratory judgment that its practices are legal, but there has been no ruling as of yet.
In Los Angeles, a district court judge granted broadcasters' request for a restraining order to stop Aereokiller from serving some areas of the west. The order is now being appealed.
Meanwhile, broadcasters are filing additional suits in other locations where the services are starting.
In the D.C. lawsuit, broadcasters say what Aereokiller is doing is in fact retransmission of local stations, calling what the company is doing “flagrant infringement.”
Aereokiller did not return a request for comment.