Broadcasters hire attorney that shut down Napster to lead lawsuit against Aereo

New York broadcasters have hired Steven Fabrizio, the copyright attorney who helped shut down Napster's file-sharing platform in 2001, to take the lead on a lawsuit aimed at stopping Aereo from delivering live TV channels to Web surfers and mobile phone users.

Fabrizio oversaw the landmark Napster lawsuit as counsel for the Recording Industry Association of America before joining prestigious Chicago law firm Jenner & Block. He runs its content, media and entertainment practice in Washington, D.C., and was hired by Fox Television Stations, Univision and PBS to file a copyright infringement suit against Aereo on Thursday.

The broadcasters allege that Aereo, which plans to launch an Internet TV platform on March 14 that would allow users to watch live TV on the Web, mobile devices and connected TVs, is violating copyright law by using its array of dime-sized antennas to receive broadcast signals and transmit them on the Internet.

Fox, Univision and other broadcasters are relying increasingly on retransmission-consent fees collected from cable operators and satellite TV distributors to sustain their businesses. Fabrizio says in the lawsuit that Aereo would undermine the ability for broadcasters to license their content to cable, satellite, and mobile providers.

"Aereo's infringing and unlawful conduct is causing and will cause plaintiffs substantial and irreparable injury by, among other things, undermining their business relationship with, and plaintiffs ability to license their content to, both traditional transmitters of television programming and new services that deliver television programming and motion pictures to portable devices via the Internet," Fabrizio writes in the lawsuit, which was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The broadcasters are asking the court for a permanent injunction that would force Aereo to "cease any and all Internet retransmission of plaintiffs' programming," in addition to compensatory and punitive damages.

Aereo, which had been expecting a lawsuit from broadcasters, said in a statement that it does not believe the suit has merit and that it "very much looks forward to a full and fair airing of the issues."

The lawsuit filed Thursday kicks off litigation that could last for several months or years, and eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's worth noting that David Bradford, the co-chair of Jenner & Block's litigation department and an attorney that was admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1985, is also representing the broadcasters in the Aereo suit.

For more:
- see the complaint
and Aereo's response

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