Deciding a question of first impression, Judge Nathan on Friday found that the Copyright Act preempts a state law unfair competition claim founded on the private performance of copyrighted works. In WNET, et al v. Aereo, Inc., the plaintiffs alleged that Aereo’s retransmittal of broadcast television signals over the internet violated the Copyright Act and, in the alternative, constituted unfair competition under New York common law. The court held that, because the unfair competition claim fell into the “general scope” of the exclusive rights created by the Copyright Act, it was preempted, and dismissed the plaintiff’s unfair competition claim on defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). Aereo is an online television start-up that launched in March, backed by media mogul Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActive Corp.
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