Aereo, the anomalous television service backed in part by board member Barry Diller’s IAC, will return to court on May 30 with the judge having dismissed one of the three counts against it.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York threw out the charge of unfair competition, saying it was inconsistent with the two remaining charges related to copyright. (Read the court’s order, below.) There actually are two separate cases filed by different groups of network TV entities, both of which previously sought but failed to secure a preliminary injunction against Aereo’s New York City launch in March.

Aereo enables customers to watch TV on any Internet-connected device, and to time-shift it if they wish. The only programs available are those the viewer could see on free over-the-air broadcasts, which originally were received using one of the tiny antennas Aereo assigns individually to each $12 per month subscriber.

The TV companies insist that Aereo is retransmitting TV programs without the necessary licenses, and furthermore is illegally copying the programs to offer its time-shifting feature.

Aereo counters that it is only making it simple for consumers to do something that’s already legal if they did it themselves. Anyone can put an antenna on their roof, connect it to a DVR, then connect that to their own wireless network for their personal viewing – it’s just that Aereo has thousands of tiny little antennas (pictured) in clusters around the TV catchment area rather than single antennas on thousands of rooftops.

Aereo’s defense also relies heavily on the 2008 ruling that confirmed Cablevision’s right to offer remote DVR capabilities to its subscribers. In that case the appeals court ruled that because the remote DVR “playback transmission is made to a single subscriber using a single unique copy produced by that subscriber, we conclude that such transmissions are not performances ‘to the public,’ and therefore do not infringe any exclusive right of public performance.”

Related links:

Aereo – official site

Wall Street Journal – Court Dismisses One Complaint Against Aereo

AdWeek – Broadcasters, Aereo to Face Off Next Week Over Copyrights

Fortune – Aereo is leaving the courts dazed and confused

Engadget – Aereo gets unfair competition claim dismissed, still faces two claims of copyright infringement

MediaPost – Consumer Advocates Side With Aereo Against TV Networks

Aereo Unfair Competition Dismissal 05-24-12