Supreme Court sets date for Aereo case

The real-life legal drama that pits startup Aereo versus the big broadcast networks now has a confirmed slot in the Supreme Court’s spring lineup: April 22.

The high court updated its calendar on Tuesday, in the process revealing when it would hear oral arguments in the Aereo case. The Supreme Court announced last month that it had granted an appeal in the case.

New York-based Aereo offers a service that allows consumers to record and view broadcast television on their mobile devices while away from home. The company’s service uses small antennas in a central data center to tune in over-the-air channels, then either records the video to its servers or streams it to users over the Internet.

The broadcast networks, including ABC and NBC, sued Aereo, claiming that the company is violating their copyrights. Specifically, the networks charge that Aereo is usurping their public performance rights, because it is retransmitting their signals without their permission and without paying them.

Lower courts have disagreed with that stance. Two U.S. district courts have rejected requests by the networks to block Aereo’s service; one of those decisions was upheld by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

But the law is unsettled. FilmOn, a Beverly Hills startup that offers a service that’s similar to Aereo’s, has also been battling the broadcast networks with much different results. Last year, a D.C.-based district court imposed a near-nationwide ban on FilmOn’s service.



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