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High court told Aereo service is theft

NEW YORK — Aereo, the startup that uses tiny antennas to stream the free signals of TV stations to its customers’ Internet-connected devices for a fee, is stealing from the broadcast networks on a giant scale, the broadcasters claimed in a filing with the Supreme Court on Monday.

“The Copyright Act does not tolerate business models premised on the unauthorized exploitation of the copyrighted works of others,” said the brief, from ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and others.

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On April 22, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, a case that has significant implications for a television industry undergoing profound changes, as well as challenges from competitors like Netflix and Amazon.

Among the most substantial threats is two-year-old Aereo, which operates in 13 cities and continues to grow. The company argues it does not have to pay to retransmit the broadcasters’ programming because it temporarily assigns each viewer an antenna at its storage facility. That means instead of copying the material outright, it allows individuals to copy on their own.

Lower courts are split on the legality of Aereo’s business.

Last week, a federal judge in Utah sided with the broadcasters, issuing an injunction against Aereo, forcing it to shut down in Salt Lake City and Denver.

Aereo customers, for a monthly fee starting at $8, can watch or record broadcast television through the Internet. The broadcasters argue that if Aereo is allowed to operate, cable and satellite companies will develop their own technologies to avoid paying them for their content.

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