Aereo, the controversial Internet-based television service that was ordered shut down in Utah pending a court battle over copyright law, will be turning off its service in Utah and Denver on Saturday morning for an unknown amount of time.
In an email to Aereo customers, the company’s founder and CEO, Chet Kanojia, apologized and said the service will be shut off at 10 a.m. per the order of U.S. District Court Judge Dale A. Kimball.
“We are very sorry for the effect that this decision has on you and we look forward to presenting our case to the U.S. Supreme Court and ultimately restoring your ability to use Aereo,” Kanojia wrote in the email to customers, delivered Friday night. “In the meantime, we are issuing a full refund for the current month to you, our customers in Salt Lake City and Denver. We commit to letting you know as soon as we have more information about the future of Aereo in your market.”
On Feb. 18, Kimball granted a preliminary injunction to temporarily stop Aereo from operating, ruling that the service violates U.S. copyright law by broadcasting local television signals without paying a transmission fee to broadcasters. The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City by four Utah television stations, including KTVX Channel 4, KUCW Channel 30, KSTU Channel 13 and KUTV Channel 2. It was the first time a court has ruled against Aereo, which successfully fended off similar lawsuits against the major television networks and a TV station in Boston.
On Friday, the 10th Circuilt Court of Appeals in Denver denied Aereo’s request to delay the preliminary injunction.
“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,” Kanojia wrote in his email. “Consumers have a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television via a modern 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.”
Aereo, which was launched in Utah last summer, believes it circumvents copyright law by using tens of thousands of tiny dime-sized antennas built on a rooftop array in each market, each antenna devoted to each customer. The antennas receive the free, local over-the-air broadcasts and then transmits them to the customer’s desktop computer or mobile device via the Internet. The service has a monthly subscription fee of $8 to $12 per month and is available in nearly a dozen markets in the U.S.
The major networks, including CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox filed a similar lawsuit against Aereo that will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Kanojia did not say how long the service, which was ordered shut down in just Utah and Denver, could remain turned off.