[A2k] New York Times: Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo in Broadcasters’ Challenge

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Jun 25 08:00:24 PDT 2014


 and EMILY STEELJUNE 25, 2014

WASHINGTON — In a decision with implications for the television industry,
the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Aereo, a start-up streaming
service, had violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals on
miniature antennas and delivering them to subscribers for a fee.

The 6-3 decision
<http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-461_l537.pdf> was a victory
for the major television networks, which had argued that Aereo’s business
model amounted to a theft of their programming.

For now, the judges’ ruling leaves the current broadcast model intact while
imperiling Aereo’s viability as a business after just over two years in

In arguments before the court
April, the broadcasters contended that Aereo and similar services
threatened to cut into a vital revenue stream — the billions of dollars
they receive from cable and satellite companies in retransmission fees, the
money paid to networks and local stations for the right to retransmit their
programming. The networks said this revenue was so essential that they
would have considered removing their signals from the airwaves had the
court ruled for Aereo.

Backed by the Barry Diller-controlled IAC, Aereo allowed subscribers who
paid $8 to $12 a month for its service to stream free-to-air broadcast
television to their mobile devices, computers and web-connected
televisions. The start-up contends that it is merely helping its
subscribers do what they could lawfully do since the era of rabbit-ear
antennas: watch free broadcast television delivered over public airwaves.

Broadcasters lambasted the start-up, claiming that the technology violated
copyrights and was no more than a high-tech approach for stealing their
content. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox were among the broadcasters suing to shut
down the company.

The Supreme Court case comes at a crucial time in the media industry, when
TV companies are navigating vast technological changes and rapid shifts in
viewer habits. As a result, the economics of television financing and
distribution are changing.

Aereo’s technology system relies on thousands of dime-size antennas — one
for every subscriber — stored in local warehouses. Those antennas capture
over-the-air television signals and are connected to a remote digital video
recorder and Internet connections. Subscribers pay to rent an antenna,
which they control remotely from their computers, smartphones or other

“We are pleased with today’s decision, which is great news for content
creators and their audiences,” Dana McClintock, a CBS spokesman, said in a

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