Utah State Capital Building.

Utah State Capital Building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A judge in Utah leveled the legal playing field for broadcasters fighting Aereo this week, ruling that the retransmission service does infringe upon their copyright.

The decision affects the entire U.S. 10th Circuit and preemptively bans Aereo in 6 states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Utah itself. It is the first and last of these states that will trouble the service most, as Aereo currently operates in both Denver and Salt Lake City.

CEO Chet Kanojia apologized to those customers following the decision and promised to use “all available remedies to restore [service],” but with bigger legal showdowns to come that’s a promise he may not be able to keep. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case starting in April and there’s no guarantee that it will side with Aereo’s controversial business model which, by exploiting a legal workaround, entirely bypasses the retransmission fees that legitimate services pay.

Although the main focus of both sides remains on that looming legal debate in the Supreme Court, this latest decision gives traditional media outlets and content creators added momentum as they prepare their arguments. Previous rulings in Boston and New York have indicated that Aereo may have some foundation for its claims to legitimacy, but Judge Dale Kimball took the opposite stance in this latest test.  His decision stands on the most important grounds as far as we’re concerned, protecting the rights and revenue streams of content creators.

Kimball cuts to the heart of the matter with his statement:

“Every court that has considered the question of whether unauthorized Internet streaming of television and other video programming causes irreparable harm to the copyright owners has concluded that it does.”

While encouraging  innovation lies at the heart of copyright law, permitting exploitation of content creators does not.

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