Aereo Supreme Court case looms as networks fight tech start-up

By Daniel S Levine,

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in what will be one that the entertainment industry will be keeping a close eye on. All four major networks - ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - are hoping to shut down Aereo, the affordable Internet service that streams over-the-air content.

The highest court in the country decided to take the case in January and scheduled oral arguments to start on Tuesday, April 22. Since then, the two sides have exchanged briefs, making their stances clear.

In its final brief, Aereo said that the court would be stifling technological progress by shutting it down. Aereo has argued that it is merely another tool to give consumers access to the over-the-air broadcasts, which are supposed to be free. In that final brief, Aereo suggested that its technology - which involves small antennae picking up the signal and then streaming that to its users - is just the next step, following VCRs and DVD players.

Of course, the networks don’t see it that way, believing that Aereo is violating copyrights. For them, they are missing out on the huge licensing fees, which is why traditional cable and satellite bills are high on the consumer end. Since Aereo isn’t paying that, the company can keep its monthly subscription service at a much lower rate. The networks see this as cutting out its greatest revenue stream.

Aereo also offers a DVR cloud service, which the networks say is another copyright violation. After all, if Aereo is just another way to access over-the-air broadcasts, it would be similar to an old TV, which wouldn’t include a DVR service. This addition puts Aereo in another realm of technology.

Aereo is really standing alone in the court. Even the Obama Administration is standing by the networks, saying that the service “is clearly infringing” on copyrights.

In the latest development of the case, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Justice Samuel Alito will be hearing the case, so there’s no worry about a tie vote. Alito had previously recused himself, but he will be joining his eight colleagues on April 22.



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