Aereo said it was “extremely disappointed” Wedneday as a Utah court handed it a big defeat just weeks before the Supreme Court will decide the company’s fate.
In a ruling covering six Western states, a judge sided with broadcasters who sought a preliminary injunction to keep Aereo from streaming their signals online. Though the ruling covers Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana, Aereo has only been offered in two markets in those states: Denver and Salt Lake City.
In exchange for a monthly fee, Aereo uses tiny antennae to relay broadcasters’ signals to subscribers’ computers. The judge ruled that Aereo must temporarily halt its service in all the states in the 10th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals until the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the broadcasters’ case against the company.
Judge Dale A. Kimball also said it was likely that the broadcasters would ultimately prevail in their suit against Aereo.
Kimball granted Aereo’s motion to delay the Utah case until the Supreme Court has ruled, since a decision by the high court would resolve the issues.
He noted that his decision conflicts with those of the 2nd Circuit and the state of Massachusetts, both of which have deemed Aereo does not violate copyright laws and have allowed it to continue doing business.
Wednesday’s decision means broadcasters will go into April 22 Supreme Court arguments with the wind at their backs. Until now, Aereo has beaten back the broadcasters efforts to slow its expansion. The company has spread rapidly across the country despite the legal challenges.
“This is a significant win for both broadcasters and content owners. We are very pleased that the U.S. District Court in Utah has granted our request for a preliminary injunction. This injunction will prohibit Aereo from stealing our broadcast signal in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana,” said Fox, one of the plaintiffs, in a statement.
Chet Kanojia, Aereo’s founder and CEO, said the compay is “very sorry for the effect on our valued customers in the Tenth Circuit and we will pursue all available remedies to restore their ability to use Aereo.”
“We are extremely disappointed that the District Court in Utah has chosen to take a different path than every other Court that has reviewed the Aereo technology,” he said. “Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over the air broadcast television via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use. The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located equipment.”
The court also rejected Aereo’s request that the case be moved back to its home turf, New York, where the 2nd Circuit has already ruled in its favor.