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Boston TV station sues Aereo

Boston’s Channel 5 is going to court in a bid to shut down the controversial Internet TV company Aereo Inc.

WCVB-TV filed a lawsuit Tuesday in US District Court in Boston, charging that Aereo is violating federal copyright law by rebroadcasting Channel 5’s programming without permission. “Aereo’s business and technology stand in violation of, and threaten to undermine, the carefully balanced statutory and regulatory scheme set up for the broadcast industry,” the complaint says.

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Aereo, based in New York City, began offering its service in Boston in May and is expanding to other US cities. The service captures over-the-air TV broadcasts from major networks like CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, as well as from local broadcasters. Aereo relays the broadcasts over the Internet to consumers, who pay between $8 and $12 per month. But unlike cable TV networks, which pay billions to broadcasters in retransmission fees, Aereo does not pay for the right to retransmit the shows.

Aereo is already fighting a federal lawsuit filed in New York. The courts have permitted the company to continue operating until the copyright dispute is resolved.

If Aereo is ultimately allowed to rebroadcast network shows without paying, it could lead cable companies to also refuse to pay retransmission fees.

Several networks have warned that the loss of these fees could drive broadcasters out of business; CBS and Fox have threatened to halt over-the-air broadcasts and offer their shows only via cable and satellite systems if Aereo wins.

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.
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