The US Supreme Court ruled today that Aereo, an over-the-air TV broadcast streaming service, violated copyright law by streaming it’s content to paid subscribers.
Aereo bills itself as a DVR meets cloud storage meets netflix where subscribers can pay to rent a tiny antenna and DVR at a local Aereo antenna farm. Subscribers can direct their antenna and DVR to view and record shows over the internet to computers, tablets, and smartphones. More about their service here.
Recording and playback of broadcast content is legal. If it goes over the airwaves, you’re allowed to receive it, view it, record it, and play it back later. Where Aereo walked the fine legal line was on it’s subscription model. According to Aereo, they are selling the ability to record and watch broadcast content, not the content itself. Of course, Aereo’s opponents don’t see it that way. They contend that Aereo is profiting off of copyrighted content by rebroadcasting it.
In a 6-3 decision today, the US Supreme Court sided with the big media conglomerates who were wishing they’d thought of Aereo’s idea first. (Can you tell I’m not happy about the Supreme Court’s majority opinion?)
What does it mean?
Today’s ruling leaves the fate of Aereo in question.
As a Aereo subscriber, this is sad news.
My question is simply this: If a brick and mortar service that would rent me an antenna and a DVR for $8 a month that allowed me to watch and record local broadcast content would they be facing the same treatment? Of course not.
Two things are clear:
- Our laws and our courts are not adequate to handle the brave new world of cloud storage.
- Cable providers are powerful, terrified, and have very deep pockets.
— UPDATE: 12:34pm
A Letter from Chet Kanojia
On Wednesday, June 25 at 12:30pm CMT Aereo emailed the following letter to its subscribers:
Court decision denies consumers the ability to use a cloud-based antenna to access free over-the-air television, further eliminating choice and competition in the television marketplace
New York, New York (June 25, 2014) – The following statement can be attributed to Aereo CEO and Founder, Chet Kanojia:
“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter. This sends a chilling message to the technology industry. It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ (Majority, page 17) That begs the question: Are we moving towards a permission-based system for technology innovation?”
“Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States. And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”
“Justice Scalia’s dissent gets it right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’ (Dissent, page 7) Justice Scalia goes on to say that ‘The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable television systems, see ante, at 16-17, but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its results-driven rule.’ (Dissent, page 11)”
“We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”
Founder and CEO