San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged a federal appeals court Friday to protect the rights of start-up innovators working to improve TV viewing and other entertainment experiences, arguing that big content companies should not be allowed to block add-on technology with baseless copyright claims.

At issue in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is whether TV networks can shut down a TV streaming service called Aereokiller, which sends over-the-air television signals to users' personal computing devices. The networks claim that Aereokiller violates copyright by retransmitting their signals. In the amicus brief filed Friday, EFF asks the court to look to recent court rulings that have blocked TV networks' various attempts to quash new products and constrict viewers' rights.

"Many of the services that Hollywood is trying to shut down are simply conceptually moving the antenna that used to be on your roof to their roof," said EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz. "TV viewers have a right to choose when and how they watch free TV – and courts have recognized that. Networks can't block consumer choices just because they didn't think of it first and want a cut of the profits from someone else's idea."

EFF's brief argues that without consistent rulings supporting TV viewers' legal and customary rights, start-up innovators and others won't enter the market.

"This isn't just about the products and services that are being developed today," said Stoltz. "It's about what innovators could come up with tomorrow, if they aren't discouraged by TV networks trying to claim copyright infringement when it just doesn't apply. We're asking the court here to prevent Hollywood from twisting the law at the expense of viewers' customary rights."

For the full brief in this case:


Mitch Stoltz
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation