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File Photo/Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia

Utah judge halts operations of TV content provider Aereo

By Jasen Lee | Posted - Feb 20th, 2014 @ 6:15pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has ruled that online TV content provider Aereo can no longer operate in Utah or Colorado until the U.S. Supreme Court reviews a case filed by major broadcast networks claiming copyright infringement.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball issued a preliminary injunction sought by various TV broadcast entities. A motion filed by Aereo to transfer the case was denied by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, but Kimball did grant the company’s motion to stay proceedings until the U.S. Supreme Court hears the case in April.

Previously, network broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC had been denied similar requests for an injunction in New York and in Boston. This latest ruling is considered a significant legal victory for broadcasters in advance of the upcoming high court review.

The company offers cloud-based antenna/DVR technology that allows consumers to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna. Customers can view any program that they are watching live or save a program for future viewing.

The broadcasters contend that Aereo is engaging in copyright theft because the company is not compensating the networks for their programming, similar to the distribution fees broadcasters get from cable and satellite providers. Aereo claims that the company is only using programming provided over free antenna signals, which therefore is not infringement.

For Aereo, the decision is a blow to its legal position, something the company noted in a statement.

“We are extremely disappointed that the district court in Utah has chosen to take a different path than every other court that has reviewed the Aereo technology,” said Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia. “Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use. The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located equipment.”

He added that the company will continue to pursue all available remedies to restore customers’ ability to use Aereo.

In addition to Salt Lake City and Denver, Aereo is currently available in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Miami and San Antonio.

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