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LEGAL ISSUES

Aereo Keeps Growing, Keeps Making Enemies
 

Just another day of virulent criticism for the cloud-based TV service as it announces launches in four more cities.

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A stream of profane tweets directed at the CEO of cloud-based TV company Aereo Monday alleged that the company hacked a competitor's site. One, from the account of FilmOn founder Alki David, read: "What you are doing is like breaking into someone's home and smashing their shit up. Fortunately [you] lame f---, my geeks are smarter."

A day later, Chet Kanojia, the target of the tweets, seemed unfazed. At a Goldman Sachs conference in New York, he took the stage to announce that his company is opening early access to Aereo's service in four more cities: Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; and San Antonio. Aereo service, which for a monthly fee provides TV streaming on Internet-enabled devices, is already available in seven cities, and the company has plans for hyper growth: another 22 U.S. metropolitan areas are targeted this year. Aereo has expanded its user base tenfold over the past quarter, Kanojia said, though he was vague about precise user numbers. The general expansion strategy? "Just knocking these cities out,” he said.

Aereo didn't respond to a request for a comment regarding David's allegations.

Aereo is used to defending itself from more than just angry tweets--it has been under assault from Day 1. Aereo doesn't pay for its programming; it pulls in network broadcasts through its antennas, then relays them to Aereo subscribers. The originators of the programming don't like that a bit, but Aereo won a crucial victory last April in the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that Aereo's system of broadcasting does not infringe on the broadcaster's copyrights. (It's complicated, but the crucial factor is that Aereo maintains an individual antenna for each subscriber and hence provides each subscriber a private, rather than public, broadcast.) 

The accusatory tweets from earlier this week have since been deleted, but were confirmed to the Verge by David, who also explained his aggressions. Reporter Greg Sandoval writes:

The acrimony comes at a time when legal analysts were expecting an alliance between FilmOn and Aereo, since they face a common foe. The country's top broadcasting companies have filed multiple copyright lawsuits against each company in different courts around the country. Aereo, the better known of the two companies, and FilmOn are said to use similar technology to capture over-the-air TV broadcasts and distribute live programming to customers through the web. 

While UK-based FilmOn has a billionaire owner, in Aereo's corner is $63 million in venture backing, including investment from IAC, whose chairman is Barry Diller. We'll certainly remain tuned in as Aereo turns on in dozens of major markets across the country this year.

 

Last updated: Sep 24, 2013




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