SCOTUS rules against Aereo in “tiny-antennas” case

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against Aereo in a 6-3 opinion, holding that Aereo’s capture and re-sale of over-the-air broadcasts violates federal copyright law.  You can read the opinion here.

From the New York Times:

Aereo’s technology system relies on thousands of dime-size antennas — one for every subscriber — stored in local warehouses. Those antennas capture over-the-air television signals and are connected to a remote digital video recorder and Internet connections. Subscribers pay to rent an antenna, which they control remotely from their computers, smartphones or other devices.

Excerpted from the Court’s opinion:

Because Aereo’s activities are substantially similar to those ofthe CATV companies that Congress amended the Act to reach, Aereo is not simply an equipment provider. Aereo sells a service that allows subscribers to watch television programs, many of which are copyrighted, virtually as they are being broadcast. Aereo uses its own equipment, housed in a centralized warehouse, outside of its users’ homes. By means of its technology, Aereo’s system “receive[s] programs that have been released to the public and carr[ies] them byprivate channels to additional viewers.” Fortnightly, supra, at 400.

This Court recognizes one particular difference between Aereo’s system and the cable systems at issue in Fortnightly and Teleprompter: The systems in those cases transmitted constantly, whereas Aereo’s system remains inert until a subscriber indicates that she wants to watch a program. In other cases involving different kinds of service or technology providers, a user’s involvement in the operation of the provider’s equipment and selection of the content transmittedmay well bear on whether the provider performs within the meaning of the Act. But given Aereo’s overwhelming likeness to the cable companies targeted by the 1976 amendments, this sole technological difference between Aereo and traditional cable companies does not make a critical difference here. Pp. 8–10.


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