Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Aereo loses in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled against Aereo, saying that to offer its service to consumers, it can be expected to pay license fees in a manner similar to cable companies.  This reversed a finding in the Second Circuit.  The ruling went 6-3.  A typical news story on Techcrunch is here.

The case is American Broadcasting Company v. Aereo, and the slip opinion is here

Vox has a summary of the opinion here.
Despite initial speculation that Aereo would close, the company seems ready to fight, and has posted a blog post (at least as of 6/26) in response to the ruling, here. The company insists consumers have a right to pick up broadcasts from antennae over airwaves.

The Court rejected Aereo's arguments that its antenna mechanism turned public performances, regulated by copyright law, into private instances.  
The Court says that the concern here is the covered or indirect transmission of copyrighted works or performances, and that there is no inference to be made on how cloud computing could be affected.  But Ezra Klein, of Vox, is saying that "trust us" won't cut it with entrepreneurs and investors.  I personally don't see the connection between Cloud services and Aereo, but I do wonder about YouTube embeds.

More details on the road ahead are forthcoming. I think that in some markets, an Aereo-type service can make sense even if the Aereo-like company has to pay licensing, if it can deliver all channels to the consumer without a physical hookup.  In that sense, it becomes like satellite service, but the little antenna sounds a lot easier to deal with than a dish.  It's desirable for consumers to be able to get as many cable channels as possible (even if not HD) without a physical land connection, to get service after storms or other outages.  Maybe consumers would pay for this, even if licensing were passed on to them.    Some observers note that most major networks charge for new episodes online (or require cable signon) but offer older episodes free; Hulu tries to offer new episodes, however.  

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