WOODS CROSS – A federal judge in Salt Lake City put the brakes on Aereo, an online distributor that allows viewers to stream live television over the Internet.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball granted a preliminary injunction against Aereo on Thursday, ruling that local broadcasters are likely to succeed on the merits of their copyright claim.
Aereo's service captures over-the-air TV signals and transmits them to subscribers' computers or other digital devices. It launched in March of 2012.
The Salt Lake City market was included in a handful of areas picked by Aereo for service.
A consortium of broadcasters filed suit against Aereo, claiming copyright infringement. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case in April.
Aereo does not pay broadcasters any fees for sharing their content over the Internet, while charging subscribers $8 or $12 per month.
Kimball ruled that an injunction was warranted because broadcasters may suffer irreparable harm while waiting for the Court’s ruling.
The plaintiffs in the Utah case include the owners of Fox 13, KUTV and KTVX.
A Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge has previously denied a request for an injunction against Aereo prior to the Supreme Court hearing.
The crux of the case lies within what constitutes a “public” or “private” viewing. Under FCC rules, parties are allowed to view broadcast content in a “private” setting, but no one is allowed to offer such content in “public” setting without permission from the broadcaster. The Internet has long been considered a “private” situation, but the Aereo case will test that theory.
Kimball’s ruling exclusively affects TV markets within the jurisdiction of the 10th Circuit Court, including Utah, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Wyoming and Oklahoma. Aereo launched in Utah in August of 2013, and currently operates in 10 other U.S. markets, including Colorado.
Utah Broadcasters Association President Dale Zabriskie told the Clipper that Kimball’s ruling is a good thing.
“I’m very pleased,” said Zabriskie. “Aereo is not paying royalties and not compensating stations. I hope it holds up.”