The Supreme Court has sided with broadcasters and has declared that Aereo’s Internet TV service is illegal. Broadcasters had sued the company, claiming that Aereo’s use of micro antennas to deliver traditional over the air broadcasts via broadband violated copyright.
The Justices ruled 6-3 against Aereo, with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissenting. The court wasn’t particularly compelled by Aereo’s arguments, including Aereo’s claim their service was a “private” performance and therefore didn’t violate the law.
“The statute makes clear that the fact that Aereo’s subscribers may receive the same programs at different times and locations is of no consequence. Aereo transmits a performance of petitioners’ works “to the public,” the decision states.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the court’s majority decision saying, “Given the limited nature of this holding, the Court does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies.”
Aereo, backed by media mogul Barry Diller, co-creator of Fox Broadcasting, operates in 11 major cities and had plans to expand rapidly. The court’s ruling threatens to put it out of business.
“So serious is the economic threat that two major networks, CBS and Fox, have said they would consider abandoning over-the-air free broadcasting if they lose, and instead broadcast only on pay cable channels,” reported NPR’s Nina Totenberg.
Aereo stated the company had no plan B if the Supreme Court were to rule against them.
Reacting to the decision, Diller said “blocking this technology is a big loss for consumers.” He congratulated Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia and his staff “for fighting the good fight.”
Meanwhile, Google is expected to debut Android TV at its developer-focused Google I/O show today. Android TV devices may be controlled from their smartphones and tablets. The Net-connected Google TV line brings streaming video, audio, and games to the living room.
Those devices, however, utilize on-line movie and tv services run by Apple, Amazon, Google and Netflix, which have paid copyright fees. Cable operators pay “retransmission fees” to broadcasters but Aereo did not. Aereo claimed it was – essentially – a long antenna cable that controlled a private remote antenna, thereby getting around any requirement to pay retransmission fees.