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Consumers should not be deprived of the right to watch broadcast TV through the technologies they choose, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation said Wed. in a brief filed with the U.S. District Court in New York City.
At issue is a case filed by a group of broadcasters against Aereo, an innovative project that would allow consumers to watch broadcast TV through a series of small antennae and an Internet connection.
The brief is here.
While the broadcasters want an injunction against Aereo, claiming they would be harmed, PK and EFF disagreed: “By providing an antenna to viewers, Aereo does nothing more than make it easier for viewers to access a broadcaster’s free service. By making free TV better Aereo improves and does not disrupt the television industry, and helps carry out the important public goal of preserving the ability of viewers to watch free-to-air TV.”
Using Aereo is no different than watching TV in any number of other ways, whether with a rooftop antenna, or rabbit-ears antenna, or with a mobile device, and adding time-shifting to those, the groups said noting that Aereo has assigned only one antenna per customer.
In addition, there are no copyright violations, as the broadcasters have charged, because watching TV is a “private performance,” as opposed to a “public performance,” which could trigger a copyright infringement. Previous cases have found “that a television transmission is a non-actionable private performance when it is sent only to an individual or family and their social acquaintances,” the groups argued.
Shutting down Aereo would harm consumers and stifle innovation, the groups said: “A preliminary injunction against Aereo would not only deprive consumers and the competitive landscape of a new entrant, it also would chill other potential startups and their investors from entering the market.”
They added that “the public has an interest — independent of the parties’ interests—in access to new ways of receiving broadcast television, and in promoting competition among lawful video transmission technologies and businesses.”
At its core, the case is about more than Aereo, the groups said, arguing it is about “the right of individuals —Aereo’s customers and ultimately all residents of the U.S.—to watch free local broadcast television with the technology of their choosing.”