Big win for broadcasters as Supreme Court rules against Aereo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A huge win for the nation’s biggest television broadcasters: in a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court said Wednesday that streaming television startup Aereo violates the Copyright Act.

Ever since Aereo was introduced in early 2012, its biggest financial backer, Barry Diller, has said that there is “no plan B” if the courts concluded that it was operating illegally.

Using thousands of miniature TV antennas, Aereo scoops up the freely available signals of local stations in cities like New York, Boston and Atlanta. It then delivers those signals to the smartphones, tablets or computers of paying subscribers.

Subscribers pick what to watch through a traditional on-screen guide. They can also record shows and stream them later.

A group of broadcasters sued Aereo in early 2012, before it had even launched in its first market, New York City. The broadcasters asserted that Aereo violated copyright laws by allowing “public performances” of their TV shows. Aereo said it was only enabling private screenings, just like off-the-shelf TV antennas do.

The issue reached the Supreme Court last fall and the case was heard in April.

The formal issue before the court was “whether a company ‘publicly performs’ a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet.”

The owners of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision and other broadcasters put up a united front against Aereo. (Time Warner, the parent company of CNN and CNNMoney, was not a plaintiff in the case, but did support the broadcasters.)

Fueling the feeling that Aereo was David battling Goliath, the Justice Department and the United States Copyright Office took a public position against Aereo and called it “clearly infringing.”

“What Aereo is doing is really the functional equivalent of what Congress in the 1976 [Copyright] Act wanted to define as a public performance,” Malcolm Stewart, a deputy solicitor general at the Department of Justice, told the Supreme Court justices during oral arguments in April.

Aereo and its supporters strongly disagreed — they said the service was expressly created to abide by the law.

“Aereo is, essentially, simply an antenna device that replaces technologically what you used to have to do — to go up to your rooftop and erect an antenna,” Diller said.

Diller, in a CNN interview in April, said that a ruling against Aereo would “have profound effects on the development of technology.”

Aereo had no immediate comment about Wednesday’s ruling.

3 comments

  • Russell

    This is an unfair ruling. You have justices that live inside the confines of Washington,DC only they have no concept of TV outside the beltway! They don’t realize that since the end of analog frequency transmission where signals used to travel freely 40-90 miles or more.Anyone could get the signal by putting up an antenna. Now with Digital frenzies the signal travels only 25-30 miles. If you live beyond that 30 mile range you cannot get the signals!! the broadcasters are not telling you that part of the story. Anybody beyond the beltway has to “buy TV” whether it be via cable,satellite or fiber optic. What used to be free for the past 50 years is no longer free to the vast majority of Americans. We need some justices who are pissed off with the current public broadcast system ! Doesn’t appear to be public anymore…..just for profits only. Hope Aereo donates his technology to PBS and gives the technology away for free as a charitable donation. This Supreme Court would have killed FM radio if it were to rule on it…

  • fred zupp

    Supreme Court of United States
    1 First Street, NE
    Washington , DC 20543

    cc: The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
    Washington, DC 20500

    To Whom It May Concern:

    Subject : My opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States, is that they are a bunch of , Old People with not a clue about technology, Supreme Court unfair Ruling on , Aereo

    Had Aereo won the case, Comcast’s business model would have suddenly looked a bit obsolete. Cord cutters could have used the Aereo model to stream their desired shows and avoid paying Comcast for unnecessary channel bundles. That would have likely forced a shift in strategy and undoubtedly led to future revenue losses. Needless to say, Comcast investors are pleased that business can continue as usual.

    There is no difference between an antenna and Aereo on actors and the TV industry , my opinion of the supreme court is that they are a bunch of Judges, that are Old People that have NO IDEA of technologies, and also are out of touch with any advancement, and do not want the public and the poor, to be able to use this type advancement of TV, just like the anolog TV that we had for so many years and the idea that people should pay for HD TV is not like in Europe! They have had high Def TV from Day one! Funny that you can use antenna, but not Aereo? The Supreme Court of the United States of America, also do not want alacart programming, they do not want the poor to be able to afford TV network without Dish, Direct etc, etc.

    This sends a chilling message to the technology industry.  It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’

    new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”
    “Justice Scalia’s dissent gets it right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’

    The poor that cannot afford cable, or satellite will suffer the unfair ruling. Aereo would have been an alternative to ala cart programming, and would only cause better programming for everyone. The FCC does not help the consumer , just like the Supreme Court.

    I called it before the court ever ruled on Aereo. I knew that the FCC and the court would not be in favor of the poor and other consumers.

    There are many places that cannot get antenna signal and would have been able to use antenna signal without
    using dish, etc, and paying $100 plus a month.
     

    This sends a chilling message to the technology industry.  It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’

    new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”
    “Justice Scalia’s dissent gets it right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’

    Thank you for the unfair ruling today! On the FCC free signal that you can have with antenna if you are in a area that you can use one!

    The Supreme Court should take another look at there ruling an see if there is any difference between using an antenna and using Aereo.

    The People will be stuck with the unfair practices of the Cable and the Dish companies that rip off the customers and will not allow alacart programming, will not do anything buy raise the price for packages that you NEVER WATCH!

  • les

    One more thing.. How is it that I can stream my SSB receiver and receive stations from all over the country using just an antenna and a transceiver. Yet the Supreme court says I can’t do the same thing with a TV frequency that I do with a Radio frequency. Conten is content whther I stream it across 2000 miles or 30 miles. Mr. Zupp is right some of these Supreme court justices are too old to make a logical decision..Glad they don’t know about FM radio Russell..

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