Redacted Aereo filings inadvertently reveal some technical details

Technical details of Aereo's online video service submitted to a federal court in New York could be read by the public this week even though they were marked "highly confidential." The details had been redacted, or blacked out, from documents Aereo filed with the court this week. But the redactions were ineffective.

Broadcasters sued Aereo last year, claiming the company's service violates their copyright by providing online access to local TV station signals. Aereo has argued its technology assigns each subscriber a unique over-the-air antenna and DVR and is therefore allowed under the same court decision that let Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) introduce a remote-storage DVR.

In some documents filed this week--including a transcript of a deposition of expert witness John Volakis--the sensitive text could be clearly read through the black bars that typically block unauthorized readers from seeing confidential information. In other cases, such as a declaration of Aereo's CEO Chet Kanojia, text could be copied and pasted from the documents and easily read in a word processor. Such redactions are commonly applied to documents filed with courts and government agencies when they contain competitively sensitive information.

It's unclear just how sensitive the information meant to be redacted is. Some of the material is already public. For instance, Kanojia's declaration, originally filed May 18, 2012, describes Aereo's lack of non-broadcast programming. "Aereo will offer certain non-broadcast content providers the opportunity to make their
programming available to Aereo members. Aereo has entered into two test agreements with such providers," the declaration said at the time. Aereo now offers subscribers the ability to sign up for Bloomberg TV, a non-broadcast programming supplier.

Other documents more explicitly describe how Aereo delivers a broadcast signal to subscribers.

The documents at issue came after District Court Judge Alison Nathan ordered the parties to refile batches of sensitive material that had been improperly labeled and redacted.

In an order dated June 24, Nathan reminded the parties to take more care with their confidential submissions. "The Court admonishes the parties that continued failure to comply with Rule 4A or any other Rule, may result in a party being sanctioned or being found in violation of the parties' protective order," Nathan wrote.

FierceOnlineVideo alerted lawyers of both parties to the issue with the redactions, but neither immediately responded to our request for a comment. A spokeswoman for Aereo declined to comment.

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