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Aereo suffers legal set-back

Controversial online streaming service Aereo has been blocked in six US states by a damaging legal ruling ahead of an April date with the Supreme Court.

Aereo allows subscribers to watch TV channels on mobile devices using a personal antenna but does not pay licensing fees to broadcasters.

It has been steadily rolling out into cities across the US since March 2012, most recently in Cincinnati and San Antonio, but the main US networks have persistently tried to block the service saying it infringes copyright and affects their ability to charge retransmission fees to cable and satellite providers.

A Supreme Court hearing into the matter is set for April 22 but yesterday a judge in Utah granted the broadcasters an injunction against Aereo in six western states until that hearing.

Aereo cannot now operate in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana and although it has yet to launch there it had announced plans to a roll out into Salt Lake City and Denver.

Despite the decision going against previous legal victories for Aereo in Massachusetts, the presiding judge Dale A Kimball said he believed the broadcasters would eventually win the case overall.

Aereo has previously welcomed the chance to state its case in the Supreme Court with founder and CEO Chet Kanojia saying he wanted the matter “resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition.”

Reacting to this set-back Kanojia said in a statement: “We are extremely disappointed that the District Court in Utah has chosen to take a different path than every other court that has reviewed the Aereo technology.

“Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over the air broadcast television via an antenna and to record copies for their personal use. The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail that right simply because the consumer is using modern, remotely located equipment.”

The decision was, naturally, welcomed by Fox, one of the plaintiffs, who said it would stop Aereo “stealing” its signal in the six effected states.

In January, Aereo, backed by former Fox chief Barry Diller at launch, raised US$34m in new investment, with veteran media backer Gordon Crawford among those contributing.

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