Internet video startup wins first battle with broadcasters

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But the lawsuit, filed by Fox, Univision, PBS and local New York City affiliates, accuses Aereo of trying to use "technological gimmickry" to dodge copyright law.

In Wednesday's ruling, Nathan acknowledged that the broadcasters are likely to suffer "irreparable harm" as Aereo continues to operate. She noted that online viewers will not count toward the stations' viewership figures, as measured by the Nielsen ratings. The service may also poach viewers from cable and satellite services, which pay the broadcasters to carry their channels.

But she concluded that based on the legal precedent on the issue, the broadcasters are not likely to win their case, and it would be inappropriate to grant their motion to immediately block the service.

She said Aereo's service is similar to Cablevision's remote video recording system, which a federal appeals court ruled did not violate copyright law in a 2008 case.