At this rate there could be more Aereo lawsuits than subscribers. The Barry Diller-backed streaming video provider has been taken to court by another broadcaster this week as Hearst-owned Boston ABC affiliate WCVB-TV filed a copyright infringement complaint (read it here) against Aereo on Tuesday in Massachusetts federal court. After debuting in NYC last year and earning the legal wrath of ABC, NBC, Fox, Univision and CBS among others, Aereo expanded to the Boston area on May 15 of this year. A “wrongdoing,” as the suit calls Aereo’s actions, that WCVB wants stopped. “If Aereo is permitted to profit from the unauthorized retransmission of copyrighted television programming, WCVB will be deprived of existing and potential revenue streams from advertising and authorized retransmissions, both of which are critical to supporting free, over-the-air broadcast television. Aereo’s service unavoidably will negatively affect WCVB’s efforts and resources devoted to the creation of valuable television programming — including the important local news, public safety, weather and emergency programming, public affairs, public service, and other public interest programming for the Boston community,” says the four-claim 22-page complaint.
Like the broadcaster suits filed in NYC, the Hearst owned station seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction to shut the streaming service down in the region. They also want a declaration from the court that its copyrights were infringed as well as legal costs and the usual “other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.” This is actually the second Boston-related suit in the increasingly tangled suits, war of words (Les Moonves and Barry Diller, please stand up) and threats to move to cable (Hello Chase Carey) over the streaming service. In May, Aereo filed a suit in New York court to stop CBS from going after them in Boston and other cities the service intends to start up in over the next year. CBS filed right back to dismiss that suit. As that goes on, WCVB should hope their injunction does better than the broadcaster’s NYC effort. A federal judge handed the broadcasters a loss in their initial attempt in NY court to shut Aereo down. In April, the Second Circuit on the basis reaffirmed that decision that there wasn’t any infringement because each subscriber is assigned an individual antenna. That case is now back in district court with each side seeking summary judgment. Aereo launched in Atlanta earlier this week and is set to start in Chicago in September. In the suit filed this week, WCVB is represented by James Smeallie, Brian Leary, Elizabeth Mitchell and Joshua Krumholz of Boston firm Holland & Knight LLP.
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