The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday it would hear an appeal from the big four broadcast networks in a lawsuit against Aereo, the service that allows subscribers to stream broadcasters’ programming to their computers.
ABC, NBC Universal, CBS Broadcasting, and 21st Century Fox appealed a lower court’s decision that denied their request to shut down the service. Their argument has been that Aereo essentially amounts to piracy, since unlike satellite and cable providers, the service does not pay fees to the networks for the right to broadcast their signals.
Aereo co-founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said in a statement that the company welcomed the opportunity to defend its actions to the nation’s highest court.
“We said from the beginning that it was our hope that this case would be decided on the merits and not through a wasteful war of attrition,” Kanojia said.
“We remain unwavering in our confidence that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and our team will continue to work hard to provide our consumers with best-in-class technology that delights and adds meaningful value to their lives.”
Barry Diller’s IAC is a major investor in Aereo, which uses millions of tiny antennae to transmit broadcasters signals to subscribers. Aereo says it is just harnessing the power of the humble antennae on a massive scale and is no more breaking the law than anyone with an antennae on his or her television.
But the networks says Aereo is illegally retransmitting their signals and violating copyright laws.
“We are confident the Court will recognize that this has never been about stifling new video distribution technologies, but has always been about stopping a copyright violator who redistributes television programming without permission or compensation,” plaintiffs said in a joint statement.
CBS added in its own statement that Aereo’s business model is “built on stealing the creative content of others,” without making mention of the technology at play.
Kanojia warned that if the networks were to prevail, the result could have “chilling” consequences on consumers’ rights to watch, record, and time-shift their programming.
“We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer’s right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice.”
Broadcasters have filed suits in several jurisdictions, but the Supreme Court could settle the legality of Aereo’s service nationwide.
Also read: Aereo Expanding to Baltimore Dec. 16
Aereo hasn’t let the lawsuits slow its expansion across the country. Since starting in New York in 2012, it has expanded to cities including Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit and Denver. Aereo just received a new round of $34 million in investments to help it continue expanding.