Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against Aereo, the startup television company that uses thousands of tiny antennas to stream live TV online to its low-paying customers, saying that the startup infringes on copyright law.
That sigh of relief you just heard was from television broadcasters (think ABC, CBS (the parent of SmartPlanet), and NBC), as it looks like the TV status quo will remain intact for now.
What's going on here?
This case was pegged as an important one in deciding the future of television. Aereo and TV broadcasters have been in the courts for the last two years. Aereo argued that because it had an individual (if tiny, and remotely stored) antenna, that captures already free to watch broadcast signals for each of its customers, it was providing a legal service. TV broadcasters accused Aereo of violating their right to "publicly perform" their copyrighted work and that services like Aereo could significantly cut revenue from retransmission fees that broadcasters receive from cable and satellite companies, if those companies set up their own Aereo-like services. (More on the case here.) Before today's ruling, federal courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, sided with Aereo.
What's the future of Aereo?
Not bright, if non-existent. As Barry Diller, a major shareholder of Aereo and Chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, said of a possible Supreme Court ruling against Aereo, back in April: "If we lose, we're finished...It's very possible that there's some to salvage. But Aereo would probably, as I say probably just because I can't -- I can't see any path forward. It probably would not be able to continue in business." Aereo could continue, but would have to pay copyright fees like any other cable company.
Though, as Aereo CEO and Founder, 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."
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