This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that Aereo violates copyright law by retransmitting over-the-air programming without authorization. This will shut down the controversial start-up or force them back to the drawing board to come up with a new system. The sound you heard was a huge sigh of relief of all over-the-air networks, cable carriers and content creators because this would have caused everyone to re-evaluate how programming is broadcast, and more importantly, paid for.
For those not familiar with Aereo, it essentially allowed users to “rent” an antennae that would pick up a signal at a certain point. Aereo would then take that over the air signal and send it to the user’s phone so they could stream the content from their phones.
The issue was whether this was a “public performance” of the copyrighted works. Aereo said it was not because the users could receive the same content for free if they had antennas attached to their TV at home. Aereo merely re-transmitted the same content to allows users to access it on their phone privately.
The networks sued Aereo almost as soon as it launched in 2012. They argued the simultaneous broadcasts to thousands of paying customers represented an illegal retransmission of protected works — even if you called it renting an antenna.
Actually, everyone can give a sigh a relief. Had Aereo won, the broadcast networks said they would stop providing content. The cable companies pay the networks a lot of money to retransmit the over the air channels and this would have changed everything.
While this is a blow to Aereo and possibly innovation – at least through this specific model – the world as we knew it before Aero will continue.