TV Broadcasters Lose Round One in Legal War With Barry Diller's Aereo

Barry Diller Headshot - P 2012
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Barry Diller Headshot - P 2012

TV broadcasting executives have spent the better part of a week threatening legal action over Dish Network's new Auto Hop feature that allows users to completely skip commercials. But while that has been happening, a federal judge in New York has been considering a case that the TV industry has already taken to court. 

On Monday, U.S. District Court judge Alison J. Nathan dismissed part of a complaint filed by Fox against Aereo, the online video startup backed by Barry Diller. According to the Wall Street Journal, the court dismissed an unfair competition claim but left a copyright infringement claim still to be heard.

In March, Aereo began streaming local TV content online to New York residents for $12 a month. The major TV broadcasters—Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC—sued to shut the service down. Fox brought a separate unfair competition claim, and now that it has lost that portion of the case, a hearing on the copyright infringement claim is scheduled for next week.

"It's disappointing," a representative of Fox told the Journal. "But we look forward to our day in court to prove that Aereo's unauthorized streaming of our content constitutes copyright infringement."

A CBS rep sends us the following statement:

“This is a ruling in the Fox lawsuit, and has nothing at all to do with the primary copyright-based claims that are at the heart of the complaints filed by CBS, ABC, NBC as well as Fox, which have yet to be addressed.  This preliminary ruling which addresses solely the side issue of unfair competition should have no bearing on the core claim that Aereo is clearly violating the plain language of the copyright law."