WNET v. Aereo, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 05-21-2012
  • Case #: No: 12 Civ. 1543 (AJN)
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Nathan
  • Full Text Opinion

The Copyright Act is preempted by state law when the material is privately broadcasted if it is not already protected and is different from a copyright claim.

Opinion (Nathan): WNET is an amalgamation of corporate entities involved in various stages of television production. It asserts that Aereo, Inc. (“Aereo”) violated copyright protections due to WNET when Aereo rebroadcast New York area television transmissions to Aereo’s subscribers. The Copyright Act protects exclusive use of copyrighted materials for public use, however, Aereo argues that the preemption provision in the Act applies because Aereo’s service was for private broadcasting, which is not preempted by state law. The court based its reasoning on a two prong test from the Second Circuit to determine whether state law was preempted. The court considered whether (1) the subject matter was the type protected by state law and (2) whether the state law protections were equivalent to the bundle of rights already protected by the copyright laws, or “the general scope requirement.” The court also considered whether there was “an extra element” that made the claim qualitatively different than a copyright claim. The court found that the Congressional intent was for a wider standard for preemption based on the statutory language, and that this claim differed with respect to the protections afforded by copyright laws. Aereo’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings was GRANTED.

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