Aereo Already Sued

That took a hot minute.

{% blockquote -Joe Coscarelli Vulture %} Aereo is a hot New York City start-up that plans to provide live streaming of major networks to a variety of mobile devices for a small monthly fee. They have $20.5 million in new funding and plan to publicly launch on March 14, but were hit today with a lawsuit by networks including Fox, Univision, and PBS, who claim that Aereo wants to broadcast without having “licensed this television programming from those who own it.” Oops? {% endblockquote %}

If you haven’t heard of Aereo, they’re a new service offering over-the-air programming (i.e. the stuff broadcast for free you can see with an HD antenna) delivered to a number of web-connected devices for $12 per month. They are set to launch in two weeks exclusively in NYC.

When you pay Aereo, you are basically renting a remote antenna (each customer gets his or her own) which you can access through apps or a web browser. Technically, it would be easy to set this up on your own at home with something from Elgato, but Aereo takes the technical know-how out of your hands.

I have a feeling the main point of contention the networks have is the fact that you can DVR programs in Aereo’s cloud. From the beginning, it sounded like a big fat licensing issue. You can bet this is the first of many lawsuits to come down on the company, which has chosen to launch in the media and lawyer capital of the world.

One of the many (not unfair) defenses of online privacy is that the programming is broadcast for free over the airwaves to begin with. Once a show goes public, it’s seemingly fair game to be recorded, transcoded and downloaded. The trouble is that Aereo is trying to charge up front for a service that works basically like a live-streaming torrent.

Maybe they’ll weather this storm with their $20.5 million. Maybe they’ll even beat the networks at their own game and put a decision on the books that allows for live-streaming of publicly available broadcasts. Those are some big maybes.