Aereo CEO Asks Subscribers to Make Congress Save the Company

Wants Lawmakers to 'Protect Your Right to Use the Antenna of Your Choice'

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Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia leaves the Supreme Court following oral arguments in the case his company ultimately lost.
Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia leaves the Supreme Court following oral arguments in the case his company ultimately lost. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Back in April, Aereo CEO Chet Kenojia made headlines when he said that a decisive Supreme Court loss would basically amount to the end of his company.

With that decisive loss now delivered, a new letter Mr. Kenojia released this morning shows how thoroughly he has changed his mind.

"Today, I'm asking you to raise your hands and make your voices heard," the letter reads.

"Visit the updated, find your representatives and send tweets, emails and Facebook messages asking them to take action to protect your right to use the antenna of your choice to access live free-to-air broadcasts, including the ability to use a cloud-based antenna," it says. "Don't let your voices be silenced. Let's stand together for innovation, progress, and technology."

Over on the site itself, clicking on a "Speak Out" button draws users to a sidebar, which allows visitors to automatically generate emails or tweets that can be sent directly to a user's representative in Congress.

It's unclear whether the site has made much of a mark since its original introduction in April, just before TV broadcasters began arguing before the Supreme Court that the service violated copyright by pulling in their signals without their permission. Counters at the bottom of the site say it has been shared more than 7,000 times across social media channels.

It's also not certain how many Aereo subscribers there were and therefore might feel aggrieved enough to take up the campaign. The company has not disclosed how many customers it signed up, although one estimate put the number of New York subscribers between 90,000 and 135,000 last fall.

A spokeswoman for Aereo declined to elaborate on the effort or its traction so far.

On June 25, the Supreme Court ruled six to three that Aereo, which allows users to record and save broadcast TV signals for a monthly fee, is more a cable company than a simple technology provider, and was therefore infringing on the rights of broadcasters. At the time, Mr. Kenojia called the decision a "massive setback for the American consumer."

Shortly thereafter, Mr. Kenojia sent a letter to subscribers informing them that they would be temporarily suspending operations. It also announced that the company would refund its customers their most recent monthly payments.

This is the second time in recent months that a startup has tried to rally its users to its cause in the face of legal trouble. Back in October, Airbnb sent a mass email out to its New York-area renters asking them to sign a petition protesting a subpoena issued to them by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Aereo's case has been sent back down to the lower court. Some observers have argued that the Supreme Court decision, while apparently fatal for Aereo right now, opens a wider battle to get Congress to update communications laws.

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