Aereo rents customers tiny antennas, then sends the TV broadcasts over the Internet.
Aereo, a TV-over-the-Internet startup whose legal battles have been closely watched, has been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court today. If the company survives at all, its business model will have to change drastically, and it will have to pay fees to the television companies it has been fighting in court for more than two years.
In a 6-3 opinion (PDF) written by Justice Stephen Breyer, Aereo was found to violate copyright law. According to the opinion, the company is the equivalent of a cable company, which must pay licensing fees when broadcasting over-the-air content. “Viewed in terms of Congress’ regulatory objectives, these behind-the-scenes technological differences do not distinguish Aereo’s system from cable systems, which do perform publicly,” reads the opinion.
The court’s majority accepts the copyright arguments of the TV broadcasters who initiated the lawsuits against Aereo. They claim that Aereo’s capture-and-retransmission is a violation of their “public performance” right, and the court agreed.
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