Judge Sides With Diller-Backed Streaming TV Startup Aereo Over Broadcasters On Injuction

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New York City-based Aereo got a big initial win in court today, as it will e able to continue operating while also fighting a lawsuit against some major broadcasters. According to Reuters, U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan denied an injunction sought by those broadcast networks, which would have shut Aereo down while the lawsuit was underway.

Aereo provides a service that records and streams over-the-air broadcasts online, giving consumers access to them for a small monthly fee. It works by pulling signals from a number of small antennas, and then converting those broadcasts to digital streams that can be viewed on PCs, tablets, and a number of other devices.

The startup, which is backed by IAC Chairman Barry Diller, was taken to court by a group of broadcasters that includes ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. The networks accused the startup of copyright infringement and claimed irreparable harm from the service, which re-broadcasts their signals without paying them to do so.

Aereo claimed that the lawsuits had no merit, in part because the over-the-air signals that it was were free and available to any consumer who wished to buy his own digital antenna. And since Aereo licenses one antenna per user, it operates in much the same way that a Slingbox does, when it streams a signal digitally over the Internet.

Of course, Aereo isn’t out of the woods yet. The preliminary injunction means that the startup won’t have to shut down before arguing its case, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in violation of copyright infringement. The case will likely stretch over several years before being decided. In the meantime, though, it will have the freedom to see if consumers actually use the service.