Supreme Court rules against Aereo, says service does breach copyrights

By Daniel S Levine,

In what many will see as a blow to the future of television, the Supreme Court has ruled against startup Aereo. The highest court in the land sided with the broadcast networks, which argued that the service was a violation of copyright laws.

The Court ruled 6-3, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing the court’s opinion. Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Aereo and the broadcast networks never saw eye-to-eye, with ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox all filing lawsuits against Aereo to shut the service down. The specific case the Court took was ABC’s case against Aereo.

The networks argued that Aereo violated copyright laws by streaming over-the-air broadcasts on the Internet without paying licensing fees. This is how Aereo got to keep prices down to as little as $8 a month, while the cable companies like Comcast and TimeWarner charge subscribers hundreds a month.

Aereo had argued that it wasn’t breaking any laws, describing itself as merely a tool for customers to gain access to the free over-the-air broadcasts, similar to the old TV antennae. The system uses thousands of tiny antennae to bring the broadcasts to the subscribers.

What really made it complicated though, was that Aereo offers a DVR-style service, allowing customers to save transmissions to watch later.

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

The decision could really have an impact on the future of television, as more people watch more content on the Internet or other streaming services. The networks themselves have launched their own streaming apps, but they require you to log-in through a cable/satellite provider.

The Obama Administration had actually sided with the networks, calling Aereo a system that “is clearly infringing.”

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