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Supreme Court to hear appeal over online TV service Aereo

Friday, 10 Jan 2014 | 3:05 PM ET
Source: Aereo

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted an appeal to broadcasters who sought to have online television service Aereo shut down, the latest in a battle between major broadcasting networks and the Barry Diller-backed company.

Aereo, which charges users a nominal flat rate to watch live or recorded broadcast shows on computers and mobile devices, has been at the center of a copyright infringement fight. Broadcasting giants want the upstart company shut down, contending it would cost them revenues.

The high court effectively revisits a verdict handed down in April of 2013, where a cohort of broadcasters that included Disney and NBCUniversal, owned by Comcast. The group sought to shut down the web-based startup, and filed suit alleging copyright infringement. At the time, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals shot down the move, prompting the broadcasters to appeal to the Supreme Court.

"We believe that Aereo's business model, and similar offerings that operate on the same principle, are built on stealing the creative content of others," said CBS, one of the litigants, in a statement. "We are pleased that our case will be heard and we look forward to having our day in court."

Aereo's investors include Diller's IAC/Interactive, Highland Capital Partners and FirstMark Capital.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year Aereo did not violate the copyrights of broadcasters with its service but a similar service has been blocked by other judges.

Aereo claims what it is doing is legal because it has thousands of tiny antennas at its data centers and assigns individual subscribers their own antenna. According to Aereo, that makes it akin to customers picking up free broadcast signals with a regular antenna at home.


"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," said Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia, in a separate statement.

"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," he added.

NBCUniversal is the sister company of CNBC, and both are owned by Comcast.

--By CNBC; Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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