New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal judge not to let television networks squash an innovative streaming service with a bogus copyright infringement lawsuit.

In an amicus brief filed today, EFF and Public Knowledge asked the court to block a preliminary injunction that could prevent Aereo Inc. from establishing a customer base in New York City, arguing that shutting down the service at this early stage sends a dangerous message to other start-up companies working to improve consumers' TV viewing experience.

"The threat of lengthy litigation would discourage any business from working to add value to the television viewing experience, leaving the market in the hands of a few established players," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "Remember, these are the same folks who tried to keep VCRs off the market years ago, and more recently fought viciously against remote DVRs, which allow cable subscribers access to content they've already bought but is stored elsewhere. This is yet another attempt by TV networks to profit from, control, or stop new technology they didn't think of first."

Aereo lets users in New York watch local channels by renting their own small antenna located at the Aereo facility, with the signal from the antenna sent over the Internet to that single user. The TV networks argue that this somehow constitutes a public performance and therefore infringes their copyright, even though it would be perfectly legal for someone to install their own antenna and run a wire to a TV set without paying a fee to anyone.

"All Aereo is doing, conceptually, is moving the rabbit ears from your roof to theirs," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Yet the TV networks want to play games with the law to get a cut of the profits or shut it down. We're asking the court to consider the legal and customary rights of television viewers, as well as the threats a preliminary injunction could bring to future innovation."

For the full brief in WNET v. Aereo Inc.:


Mitch Stoltz
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation

Kurt Opsahl
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation