This morning the Supreme Court handed Internet television service Aereo their head on a platter. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that Areo was in violation of copyright law when it rebroadcast network television shows without permission from, or paying royalties to, the networks and other copyright holders of the material that Aereo was rebroadcasting to its subscribers.
The difference betweeh Aereo and other Internet TV services is that Aereo’s service was truly over the air (OTA). Aereo’s technology amounted to having thousands of little antenna around an Aereo-enabled city. They would then capture – store – and rebroadcast over-the-air network shows to their subscribers, who could watch the shows without any additional equipment on their iPads or other Internet-enabled and supported devices.
The Plaintiffs, American Broadcasting Companies, argued that Aereo was in violation of copyright law because Aereo was rebroadcasting copyright-protected material. After all, network affiliates have to pay to do the same thing that Aereo was getting away with for free – and capitalizing on.
Aereo’s argument was that their services were not very different from a user installing a pair of rabbit ears (the old style antenna), and that what the users did once they received the signal was not their responsibility.
The Supreme Court saw it differently, and in a 6-3 decision against Aereo, they held “Insofar as there are differences, those differences concern not the nature of the service that Aereo provides so much as the technological manner in which it provides the service. We conclude that those differences are not adequate to place Aereo’s activities outside the scope of the [Copyright] Act.”
You can read the full text of the Aereo Supreme Court decision here (PDF).
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