Sometimes, it's better to throw that first punch, even if your opponent is still shaking hands.
The Ballad Of Aereo Vs. The World took yet another juicy turn Monday when our favorite Web TV startup filed a preemptive strike against a group of broadcasters in Manhattan's U.S. District Court. The Big A says it is not violating copyright law. CBS and about 6,021,049 other people say it is. Now, on the heels of releasing the hounds in Boston next week, Aereo is asking the court to issue a proclamation saying its service is permitted under copyright law. Why do that? Two reasons.
1) It's a nice way to fire back at CBS and Les Moonves from a public relations standpoint. Both the network and the Moon-meister recently said that each time the service expands to another city, it plans to challenge The Big A in court. Not helping matters is the recent announcement from all four major professional sports leagues in America that they are hopping on board with the service's detractors.
And 2) It's a nice way to gain leverage while battling CBS and Les Moonves from a legal standpoint. If Aereo can get the court to issue the desired proclamation, it would, in essence, set precedent for the presumed legal battles the networks are promising to wage each time each antennas' power is turned on in each city.
But there's more. Jeff John Roberts at paidcontent.org noted a few hours ago how a court ruling in California could set the stage for an extremely odd circumstance surrounding the service, moving forward ...
"In the bigger picture, the Aereo fight is part of a great game over the future of the TV industry," he wrote. "Aereo, which is backed by a major investment from media mogul Barry Diller, has also been the subject of acquisition rumors by satellite provider Dish. Broadcasters fear that an alliance between the two companies could provide an end-run around the existing system that requires cable and satellite providers to pay for use of the over-the-air signals. The final outcome could well end up at the Supreme Court given a current split between the courts in New York and a district court in California, which shut down a similar service to Aereo last year. In the meantime, it’s possible that a patchwork of decisions could result in Aereo being legal in half the country and forbidden in the other half."
How weird would that be: Live in New York? "Hey, check out this cool thing called Aereo that lets me watch TV over the Internet, man! Let me grab you some brewskies and we can check out what's happening on Sportscenter!" San Francisco? "Um, I think I get PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC and a weird, broken feed of FOX. Here's a pillow. Now, go to sleep to the sounds of Charlie Rose."
Yes. People still say "brewskies."
The issue is a pressing one now because, as I said, Boston is the next city on tap for the service, and, as the Associated Press pointed out today, the service is set to go live next week. Whatever rulings that have previously been decided in New York (and there have been multiple ones) will not be bound to Boston if the court doesn't say what Aereo is asking it to say. The argument for wanting to hear those precious words? "Additional lawsuits would be duplicative and wasteful," so says The Big A, and that's not entirely incorrect.
As it stands, the powerhouses are seemingly planning to buy their way toward muscling Aereo out of business. "Keep suing until they decide they just don't want to deal with it anymore," appears to be the logic. "Just pump millions and millions of dollars into our lawyers' pockets and wait for this pest to retreat."
Sounds, familiar, doesn't it? Cough. Napster. Cough.
A copy of the new lawsuit, courtesy of All Things Digital, appears below. When reached for comment, the lawsuit said, "Hey, don't shoot me — I'm just the messenger!" Hardy, har, har, har. Have a look ...
Aereo Complaint for Declaratory Judgment - FINAL FILED