Utah District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Against Aereo - Intellectual Property Law - U.S. Tenth Circuit
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Utah District Court Grants Preliminary Injunction Against Aereo

The first preliminary injunction against Aereo was granted by the Utah District Court, but a motion to stay proceedings was granted until SCOTUS hears the case in April.

This is a big win for broadcasters, who were originally denied the preliminary injunction in the Second and Massachusetts District Court.

So why did the Utah district court grant the preliminary injunction?

Transmit Clause of the Copyright Act

If you recall, broadcasters in Utah sought a preliminary injunction against Aereo for alleged copyright infringement issues. Specifically, broadcasters argued that Aereo violated their exclusive performance rights.

Now that U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball has granted the preliminary injunction, the argument for likelihood of success on the merits turned on the application of the Transmit Clause.

The broadcasters won based on Judge Kimball's interpretation of the Copyright Act's Transmit Clause. The Transmit Clause gives copyright owners the exclusive right "to transmit a performance or display it by any device or process where the images are received beyond the place from which they are sent."

In the opinion, Judge Kimball compared Aereo to a cable company. Like cable companies, Aereo provides its paying customers with retransmissions of copyrighted works. However, broadcasters license their programming to cable companies to play for their customers. Unlike the cable company, Aereo doesn't have licenses to re-transmit the works.

Further, the legislative intent shows that Congress intended for the Transmit Act to cover not only cable television, but all devices and process that could be developed in the future to transmit copyright work -- this includes Aereo. So it's pretty likely that Aereo infringed on those copyrights. 

The Rest of the Injunction Elements

As for the rest of the injunction elements, Judge Kimball found irreparable harm in the sense that if Aereo were permitted to continue to infringe on the broadcaster's copyrights during the course of litigation, it would affect the business relationships and negotiations of legitimate licenses.

In balancing the harms, the judge found that Aereo can still expand its business outside of the Tenth Circuit, so limiting this geographic region won't put it out of business. Finally, the opinion stated that there's a public interest in continuing to receive quality programming, so enjoining copyright infringement that can affect the availability of programming helps the public.

The preliminary injunction applies to all Aereo services in the Tenth Circuit. SCOTUS will hear the Second Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts appeal on April 22.

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