Aereo seeks to block CBS from suing in additional markets

Reuters News

5/6/2013 11:57:14 AM - Reuters News

By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Aereo Inc, the online television venture backed by Barry Diller, asked a federal court on Monday to block CBS Corp from suing it in new markets where it plans to expand.

The startup company brought the complaint in Manhattan federal court, seeking a ruling that it does not violate CBS's copyright.

Aereo said its complaint is a response to threats by CBS executives to sue the company in any jurisdiction where it makes its technology available to consumers. Aereo's service currently is available in the New York area, and the company announced plans in April to expand into Boston.

The complaint quotes CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves as saying that "we'll follow" Aereo and "we'll sue them again" in the different markets where it launches.

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said in a statement, "These public relations and legal maneuvers do not change the fundamentally illegal nature of Aereo's supposed business."

McClintock said that "wherever Aereo attempts to operate, there will be vigorous challenges to its illegal business model."

The TV industry is concerned that Aereo, which allows subscribers to live-stream broadcasts of TV channels, could threaten its traditional business model. The service uses large numbers of TV antennas to capture broadcast signals for its subscribers.

Aereo does not pay licensing fees to broadcasters, while companies such as Comcast Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc pay billions in retransmission consent fees to broadcasters.

Last month, a U.S. appeals court in New York declined a request by broadcasters, including Walt Disney Co's ABC and Comcast's NBCUniversal, to force Aereo to discontinue its service until litigation between the companies is resolved.

Because CBS and other networks are already seeking a nationwide permanent injunction against Aereo, any further lawsuits would be duplicative, Aereo said in its complaint.

"The fact that CBS did not prevail in their efforts to enjoin Aereo in their existing federal lawsuit does not entitle them to a do-over in another jurisdiction," Virginia Lam, a spokeswoman for Aereo, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that any such efforts to commence duplicative lawsuits to try to seek a different outcome will be rejected by the courts."

The case is Aereo Inc v. CBS Broadcasting et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-3013.

(Additional reporting by Erin Geiger Smith; editing by Martha Graybow and John Wallace)