Broadcasters sue to stop Diller’s Aereo streaming TV service

Trying to head off the launch of a new threat on the Internet, New York broadcast stations have filed lawsuits against Aereo, a startup backed by Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActive Corp. that seeks to stream their over-the-air channels on the Internet.

The broadcasters say in their lawsuits, which come two weeks before the company’s launch, that Aereo violates copyright laws. The company is picking up their channels without paying retransmission fees paid by cable firms. The broadcasters filed suit Wednesday.

The broadcasters asked the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York to stop Aereo’s service and for monetary damages.

Aereo plans to charge users subscription fees of $12 a month and would fill a void for Internet users who desire live sports and other network shows on the go.

The suits were filed by all major New York networks affiliates, including Fox, PBS, CW, Univision, ABC, NBC and CBS. Aereo plans to launch in New York City first.

The National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group, said Aereo hasn’t sought permission to rebroadcast its shows. Aereo uses New York City-based antennas to capture the over-the-air transmissions and then converts the shows into digital format to stream to computers and devices.

By taking their shows to Internet viewers without paying retransmission fees, broadcasters can lose their audiences.

“Copyright and TV signal protections promote a robust local broadcasting system that serves tens of millions of Americans every day with high quality news, entertainment, sports and emergency weather information,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “A plaintiffs’ win in this case will ensure the continued availability of this programming to the viewing public.”

Aereo defended its business, saying in a blog post late Thursday that it plans to launch on March 14. The firm said broadcast shows that travel over public airwaves can be accessed by consumers through their technology over the Internet.

“Aereo does not believe that the broadcasters’ position has any merit and it very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues," the firm said. “Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use.”

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Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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