A gaggle of U.S. broadcast networks filed several lawsuits last week, seeking a preliminary injunction against the introduction of the Aereo digital TV service. The service debuted in New York in March.
Aereo, backed by longtime media financier Barry Diller, plans to offer a pay service that will let subscribers access local over-the-air broadcast channels on iOS devices, along with a Cloud-based DVR service to allow time-shifting of broadcast content. It's essentially a retransmission service, which is the basis for the lawsuits.
At the heart of the network claims is the argument that Aereo's retransmission service is similar to cable, and thus broadcast stations should be able to charge the service for the right to rebroadcast their signals and content. Aereo counters that their service is the equivalent of having a local antenna for each user, who is using it to capture free over-the-air broadcast signals and then using the Internet and the DVR to time-shift and place-shift that free broadcast for their personal use - uses that have been considered "Fair Use" for media consumers by the Courts. Legally, the case will likely boil down to whether the Courts consider the service a pirated retransmission, or an extension of viewers' Fair Use rights. (And frankly, whether they get a Judge who knows the technology sufficiently to understand the difference).
In the meantime, expect the standard hyperbole, with proclamations on how innovation will "destroy the underpinnings of the modern TV industry," lead to more cord-cutting (dropping of pay TV services), and in the words of one network executive, result in the end of the NFL.
Sources - TV Broadcasters Warn of Huge Industry Shake-up if Barry Diller's Aereo Isn't Stopped, The Hollywood Reporter