According to a report posted by The Verge, the steaming television provider Aereo was handed a loss in its Supreme Court battle with numerous broadcasters. The court found that Aereo was violating copyright through its technology, essentially destroying the service as it is currently comprised. It remains to be seen if Aereo will try and reinvent itself, but CEO Chet Kanojia told The Verge earlier this year that a Supreme Court loss would mean, “We’re done.”
Launched in 2012, Aereo was immediately met with lawsuits in several large markets as it aimed to deliver cheap, streaming internet television. The service only streamed over-the-air channels, but the Supreme Court still deemed the practice illegal. In addition to arguing that Aereo operated much the same as cloud services do, one of the key tenets of Aereo’s argument was its use of individual capture for each person. By doing so, Aereo hoped that their service could be compared to one a customer would be able to execute on their own at home, therefore increasing the viability of the service. However, according to the ruling:
“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.”
Was the decision correct? At the risk of sounding like I’m stifling innovation, I’d argue yes. Although Aereo believed they had a case in their technology workaround, the fact remains that the core of the service is violating copyright.
Where does internet television go from here? It can’t be overstated how large of a blow this was, and it remains to be seen what, if any, business model will be deemed legal by courts for internet television. At this rate the solution will not be made by an outsider, so its up to Comcast, Time Warner, etc. to bring us to the promised land.
UPDATE: In response to the Supreme Court decision, Aereo sent out a statement from CEO, 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.”