Sen. Warner fires warning shot at broadcasters over Aereo dispute

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Last month, News Corp. President Chase Carey warned that Fox could consider moving its shows to cable channels to prevent Aereo from "stealing" the company's content. Other broadcasting executives subsequently made similar threats. 

Aereo uses farms of tiny antennas to pick up over-the-air broadcast television signals and then transmits the video to its customers over the Internet. Customers pay a monthly fee to rent access to an antenna, which allows them to record and watch network television on their mobile devices and computers.

Aereo claims that it is only helping customers access free TV, but the broadcasters argue that the company should pay to carry their signals, just like cable and satellite providers already do. 

The major networks have sued to shut the service down, but two federal court have sided with Aereo in initial rulings. 

Responding to Warner on Tuesday, Smith said he couldn't speak for Carey or other executives, but he believes they are saying that "we're not going to sit still for piracy."

"It seems to me that if someone takes copyrighted material, distributes it and charges for it, and does not do what other [video providers] do, that's called piracy," Smith said.

He noted that technologies such as Dish Network's Hopper make it easier for viewers to skip over commercials while Aereo is threatening broadcasters' ability to charge video providers to re-transmit their signals. 

He argued that broadcasters provide vital local news and programming, especially during emergencies. 

"They have to figure out how to pay for it," Smith said.