Aereo: Stakes in broadcaster battle include innovation, consumer rights

Aereo – the cloud-based firm whose antenna/DVR technology has caused all sorts of hubbub among broadcasters who claim it violates their copyrights – has been party to lawsuits just about every time it’s rolled out in a new market.

So far, no federal judge has agreed with broadcasters’ positions, and, so far, it’s been allowed to continue to operate.

Broadcasters, meanwhile, have appealed to the Supreme Court, hoping to be granted a reversal.

This week, Cablevision – which has generally taken a pallid stance in relation to Aereo’s legality – rolled out a white paper that said the service, in its mind, likely is violating the law.

But it also opined that the arguments broadcasters are using to try and shut the service down may be a bigger evil, in that they could result in the reversal of a long-standing ruling that confirms the legality of the RS-DVR.

Cablevision slammed the broadcasters, using the “I-word,” innovation, as a rallying cry. The service said a court decision in favor of the broadcasters “the case could cripple cloud-based innovation in the U.S.”

“The broadcasters’ overreaching copyright arguments would, if accepted, cause grave harm to consumers, cloud-based technology and future innovation,” Cablevision said in a statement. “In a case about Aereo, the broadcasters go well beyond Aereo and attack the legal underpinning of all cloud-based services, everything from the Apple iCloud to Cablevision’s own remote-storage DVR service.”

Operators aren’t really worried about Aereo’s success… they generally don’t see it as a legitimate threat to their business. But another win by Aereo could make for some interesting talks about retransmission and the fees operators currently pay broadcasters for their content.

Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia, following the submission of its own brief to the Supremes, said it was not going to oppose the broadcasters’ petition for judicial review by the court.

“While the law is clear and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and two different federal courts have ruled in favor of Aereo, broadcasters appear determined to keep litigating the same issues against Aereo in every jurisdiction that we enter,” Kanojia said. “We want this resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition. The long-standing landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision has served as a crucial underpinning to the cloud computing and cloud storage industry.  The broadcasters’ filing makes clear that they are using Aereo as a proxy to attack Cablevision itself.”

Kanojia said consumers should be able to take advantage of innovation.

“We are unwavering in our belief that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and we look forward to continuing to delight our customers.”

Stay tuned, this one is a long way from being over.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn