Feds now oppose Aereo, rejecting cloud apocalypse argument

One of Aereo's antennas.
One of Aereo's antennas.

TV streaming service Aereo expected broadcasters would put up a fight. The startup may not have seen the Justice Department as a threat, however.

Aereo, a New York-based company with its engineering office in Boston, is headed for a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22.

The Justice Department has now weighed in, saying in a filing that it’s siding with major broadcasters who accuse Aereo of stealing TV content.

Aereo’s service involves streaming broadcast content to members over the Web. The company uses arrays of tiny antennas (assigned to individual users) to catch the broadcast signals. The service, which also includes a remotely-accessed DVR service, starts at $8 a month.

In its filing, the Justice Department noted it doesn’t believe a win for broadcasters would dismantle the precedent that created the cloud computing industry, as Aereo has claimed. From the filing:

(A ruling against Aereo) need not threaten the legality of cloud computing. One function of cloud-computing services is to offer consumers more numerous and convenient means of playing back copies that the consumers have already lawfully acquired. A consumer’s playback of her own lawfully-acquired copy of a copyrighted work to herself will ordinarily be a non-infringing private performance, and it may be protected by fair-use principles as well.

Aereo’s service is offered in 13 U.S. cities, including Boston and New York City.

The company employs 110, with 75 of those employees in the South Boston Seaport.

Aereo has raised $97 million since its founding in 2009. Investors include Highland Capital Partners, which has a Cambridge office, and media mogul Barry Diller’s firm IAC of New York.

Kyle Alspach has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since 2005 and was one of the original staff writers at BetaBoston.
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