Aereo, a controversial start-up that lets people watch TV on mobile devices for $8 a month, has won a significant new court victory in Boston where a federal judge refused a broadcaster’s request to shut down the service.
In a Thursday morning order, US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton refused to grant a temporary injunction to the broadcaster Hearst, which had argued that Aereo was rebroadcasting its Channel 5 signal without permission and infringing copyright.
In his ruling, the judge found that Aereo did not appear to violate copyright because its service is akin to a remote DVR service that lets subscribers watch and record private individual copies of the programs.
The judge acknowledged that Aereo could harm the broadcasters by encouraging people to cut their cable subscriptions, but said that a temporary injunction was not necessary because, “it seems more likely that the harm will take several years to materialize.”
The court also rejected Hearst’s claim that it would lose out on ad revenue because it couldn’t measure Aereo subscribers was “simply not true,” adding that Nielsen rating service now tracks online viewers.
The Boston ruling, which followed the reasoning of an influential New York appeals court decisions from earlier this year, means Aereo is now legal throughout four New England states and Puerto Rico. Broadcasters this week asked to take the case to the Supreme Court, citing conflicting rulings in California and the District of Columbia where Aereo remains unavailable.
Update: the broadcasters formally filed the Supreme Court petition.
Here’s the ruling (key findings on p. 11-13 and 18-19)