Aereo is illegal, Supreme Court finds

June 25, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

The U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday struck down a lower court ruling regarding the video service Aereo: “This ruling appears sweeping and definitive, determining that Aereo is illegal,” SCOTUSblog Publisher Tom Goldstein writes.

Aereo is a service that assigns a tiny antenna to each of its customers, who can then watch broadcast TV on their computers or store copies of broadcasts to watch later. Previous court battles have gone its way. Broadcasters and sports leagues like the NFL and Major League Baseball claimed the service robbed them of revenue, as Al Tompkins writes in an explainer about the case.

“We are pleased with today’s decision which is great news for content creators and their audiences,” CBS Executive Vice President of Communications Dana McClintock said in a statement.

“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer,” Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said in a statement. “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.”

Kanojia said in April “We don’t have a Plan B” if the court didn’t rule its way.

“It’s not a big (financial) loss for us, but I do believe blocking this technology is a big loss for consumers, and beyond that I only salute Chet Kanojia and his band of Aereo’lers for fighting the good fight,” Aereo investor Barry Diller said in a statement.

SCOTUSblog Editor Amy Howe wrote a good summary of the arguments Aereo and broadcasters made before the court earlier this year.

The case turned in part on whether Aereo impinged on the public performance rights of broadcasters. “We conclude that Aereo is not just an equipment supplier and that Aereo ‘perform[s].'” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority decision. “The key point is that subscribers call all the shots,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a dissent. “Aereo’s automated system does not relay any program, copyrighted or not, until a subscriber selects the program and tells Aereo to relay it.”

Here’s the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Breyer in the majority; Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined Scalia in the dissent.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Aereo case

Here’s what Poynter has reported on the Aereo previously:

— April 22: Aereo ‘cautiously optimistic’ after Supreme Court hearing

— April 21: Aereo Supreme Court case: what’s at stake — local news included

— Nov. 18, 2013: Sports leagues urge Supreme Court to take up broadcasters’ complaints against Aereo

— Aug. 8, 2013: Aereo will move into Miami, Houston and Dallas

— May 6, 2013: Aereo files suit against CBS as it moves into Boston

— April 8, 2013: Why Aereo has broadcasters rattled