Aereo's plans to expand TV streaming service unfazed by conflicting federal court rulings

New York City streaming TV service Aereo may not be welcome on the West Coast but that’s not putting a crimp in its expansion plans, according to a company spokesman.

Aereo, which currently streams live broadcast TV programming to subscribers in New York City for $12 a month, is fighting attempts by the national TV networks to shut it down.

Aereo has won two preliminary court bouts in that fight in its native New York, but a federal district court in California has given a thumbs-down to a company that provides a service that is similar to Aereo’s.

Aereo’s California Doppelganger, ironically called Aereokiller, was shot down by a judge in the federal Ninth Circuit at the end of last year. The Ninth Circuit court jurisdiction covers much of the West Coast.

U.S. District Court Judge George Wu ruled that the legal precedents used in New York, which upheld streaming of live broadcast programming over the Internet, didn’t apply in his district.

“[New York] law has not been adopted in the Ninth Circuit, and this Court would find that the Ninth Circuit’s precedents do not support adopting the Second Circuit’s position on this issue,” he wrote.

“Instead,” Wu continued, “the Court would find that Defendant’s transmissions are public performances, and therefore infringe Plaintiff’s exclusive right of public performance.”

Differing opinions

Under copyright law, public performances are protected content. In New York, U.S. District Court Judge Alison J. Nathan ruled that a live broadcast TV signal streamed over the Net isn’t a live performance and that decision was upheld last week by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since Judge Wu’s decision, however, applies only to the Ninth Circuit, which includes California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii, that still leaves a lot of territory for Aereo expansion.

TV delivery services ‘broken?’

The company plans to do just that. “Aereo is continuing to move forward with their expansion to 22 cities this year,” Aereo spokesperson Mike Schroeder told PCWorld.

Aereo, which is backed by former high-powered entertainment executive Barry Diller, has the potential to be a disruptive technology on the TV scene, according to communications industry analyst Jeff Kagan.

That’s because the mainstream delivery products are broken, he maintained.

“It costs too much for customers, and customers are looking for more choices,” Kagan told PCWorld.

Consumers are searching for alternatives to the traditional pay-for-TV model of add more channels and increase subscription fees year after year, he said.

“That doesn’t work, especially in today’s marketplace where customers want to reduce costs,” Kagan said.

“If a la carte service was available from cable television, I don’t think customers would have a need for all these alternatives,” he observed. “But the cable TV industry keeps shooting that down,” he continued.

“Every time they shoot down one of these ideas that could save them going forward, it puts another nail in their coffin,” he said.

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