Aereo Brings New Lawsuit Against CBS Over Expansion Plans

Eriq Gardner
Power Lawyers: How Aereo's Attorneys Beat Hollywood (For Now)

Aereo won't wait around to be sued again.

The company has decided to fire the next shot in a fight with broadcasters with a lawsuit aimed at CBS. Yes, this time, Aereo is the plaintiff.

Aereo, the company backed by Barry Diller that allows subscribers to record local TV without a pay-TV subscription and watch online, recently announced that it would be launching in the Boston metropolitan area on May 15.

Reacting to the news, one of CBS' press officials declared on Twitter that the broadcaster would sue Aereo over its expansion plans and that "stealing our signal will be found to be illegal in Boston, just as it will be everywhere else."

Now, Aereo is taking seriously the threat of being sued in places it plans to do business. So, beating CBS to court, Aereo has filed a new complaint in New York federal court and is seeking a declaratory judgment that Aereo's technology does not infringe upon the broadcaster's copyrights.

By filing the action in New York, Aereo hopes to lean on favorable precedent in that jurisdiction. In early April, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal determined that a federal judge properly declined to issue an injunction that would have shut down Aereo.

The broadcasters have asked the Second Circuit to rehear the appeal before a full panel of judges. Meanwhile, the case also continues in the discovery stage at a lower federal court.

Now, a new front in the war has opened up.

What happens outside of the 2nd Circuit jurisdiction (covering New York, Vermont and Connecticut) is uncertain.

Aereo hopes that its system of playback transmissions will be deemed wherever it goes as performances not "to the public" and thus, not a copyright infringement. Some case law suggests that Aereo might have a problem on the west coast as well as in Europe, if it ever chose to go there. (Aereo's expansion plans have seemingly avoided those potential problem spots.)

The big question in Aereo's latest lawsuit against CBS is whether a New York judge will exercise authority to stop the broadcasters from seeking action in other jurisdictions. CBS might attempt to have the case transferred. We're reaching out to the network and will update soon.

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