Broadcasters petition Supreme Court to hear case over iPad TV streamer Aereo

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Broadcasters in the United States have made good on their threat against Aereo, which rebroadcasts television content to iPad and iPhone owners, by petitioning for their case to be settled by the nation's highest court.

On Friday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that Fox, ABC, Telemundo, NBC, PBS, and CBS had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their ongoing case against Aereo, following failures to win injunctions against the service in the lower courts. The broadcasters allege unfair competition on the part of Aereo, as well as illegal appropriation of their content for Aereo's own purposes.

Aereo uses an array of micro-antennas to capture television broadcasts, which it then streams to iOS devices and PCs through a web portal. Aereo charges its subscribers $8 per month for access to the service. The broadcasters claim that this constitutes an infringement of their copyrights, as well as a violation of their performance rights.

The broadcasters' petition (embedded below) holds that Aereo's service is an illegal "public performance" of their protected content. Aereo claims that the thousands of antennas it assigns to each subscriber yield the same effect as if those subscribers had gone out and purchased an antenna for themselves.

Illustrative of the difficulties some content holders have had in adjusting to the decline of the standard distribution model, the case has resulted in wins and losses for both sides. For the most part, though, Aereo has been able to expand its offerings to new metropolitan areas with impunity. In April, a New York federal appeals court upheld a ruling that denied a prior motion by the broadcasters to shut Aereo down. Soon after, Aereo began expanding its service to even more locales. It is already available in New York, Miami, and Houston, and the company plans to be available in 20 more cities by the end of 2012.