Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments in Aereo case, justices worried about overreaching decision

By Daniel S Levine,

The Supreme Court has begun hearing oral arguments in what will undoubtedly be one of the most important cases to impact the entertainment industry in years. The four broadcast networks - ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox - are all trying to get tech start-up Aereo shut down. On the first day, the justices expressed their concerns about Aereo.

Aereo is a system that uses tiny antennae to broadcast free over-the-air transmissions online. The service can cost as little as $8, since Aereo is not paying the networks the same huge licensing fees the cable and satellite providers are. The networks believe that this is copyright infringement, especially since Aereo includes a DVR service. Aereo has said that it is just another tool consumers can use to access the free airwaves.

According to the Wall Street Journal, it appears that Aereo may have reasons to be nervous early. Chief Justice John Roberts said that the system appears to be designed specifically to get around copyrights. But then he noted that Aereo could be seen as a RadioShack store, just selling consumers a tool to see television.

The justices showed their full grasp of the technology in question, as they wondered if their decision may have an overall impact on cloud storage technology, notes TheWrap. They believe that an overreaching decision may impact how consumers can use remote storage cloud systems (like Apple’s iCloud).

“I have to understand the effect it will have on other technologies,” Roberts said during the arguments. Justice Stephen Breyer added, “I don't know how to get out of it.”

It’s difficult to say which way the Court will decide at such an early point in the arguments. A decision will not be announced until the end of June.

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