SCOTUS Holds Against Aereo TV
The Supreme Court yesterday held that Aereo TV, the online television service that streams broadcast TV to your phone, violated copyright laws by not paying broadcast fees to the broadcast television companies. We discussed the case on LaaW earlier ==> here.
A Tale of Two TV’s
The case came down to two analogies of Aereo’s business model. On the one hand, the broadcast companies compared Aereo to a cable company, which must pay retransmission fees to the broadcast companies for rebroadcasting their shows. On the other hand, Aereo argued that it was no different that somebody sticking “rabbit ears” on their TV and sending the show through DVR, but with Aereo doing that hard work for them. You can pick up broadcast signals with an antenna without having to pay retransmission fees.
Ultimately, the majority went with the broadcasters’ analogy, and the dissent went with the rabbit ear analogy. This is a major blow for Aereo and its users. Aereo has stated that its business model cannot work if it has to pay retransmission fees, and has also stated it has no “Plan B” if it loses in Court. Aereo’s CEO Chet Kanojia stated that they “will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.” Note that he doesn’t mention TV as part of that impact.
Wider Impact Lessened
The case was closely watched because of heavy emphasis during oral arguments on the potential effects on cloud computing. Under either analogy, the Court had to make decisions on settled copyright law and the worry was how far they would go. The question was how much would be tossed around to come to a decision. However, it seems Justice Breyer took note of the worries in his opinion by strictly limiting the holding to broadcast TV – not cloud computing, streaming, or anything else.
So probably no more Aereo TV. Another innovative company caught up in the law, but that’s the nature of the game sometimes.