Aereo Infringes Copyright – UPDATED

OK..!   Time for Plan B… What?   There is no Plan B..??

Aereo_logoWell crap!

Without a Plan B, Aereo cofounder Chet Kanojia had previously stated in April 2014 that without support of their business model by the Supreme Court, they would have to shut down.   Unfortunately for cord cutter’s everywhere (me included…) this is a horrible development not only for Aereo, but for American consumers everywhere.

What Aereo did was simple – it provided a small digital antenna for a customer to rent in their home city.   Aereo then transmitted the video received by that antenna over the internet for that consumer. Said consumer was able to view that video over the internet. The consumer could be physically in their home city, or they could be anywhere on the planet (provided they had an internet connection and the means to view the video signal).

Major networks filed suit against Aereo because this violated their business model of broadcasting television content to their viewers. They were also completely cut out of the revenue model; and cable companies and the networks that broadcast over them are desperately hungry for that revenue (so, now you know why the networks and cable companies sued them in court).

The Supreme Court’s split decision (6-3 in favor of the current copyright holders, or the networks) held that “Aereo’s customers constitute ‘the public,’ and that retransmitting television networks’ copyrighted material goes against their exclusive right to perform their works publicly as the holders of the copyright.” Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion.

According to that opinion, “We must decide whether respondent Aereo, Inc., infringes this exclusive right by selling its subscribers a technologically complex service that allows them to watch television programs over the Internet at about the same time as the programs are broadcast over the air,” the opinion reads. “We conclude that it does.”

In my opinion, the Court got it WAY wrong.   Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito got it right. Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion, indicating that, [The networks failed to prove that Aereo’s product constitutes a performance] “at the very outset because Aereo does not “perform” at all.   The Court manages to reach the opposite conclusion only by disregarding widely accepted rules for service-provider liability and adopting in their place an improvised standard (“looks-like-cable-TV”) that will sow confusion for years to come.”

So yeah… those three DO get it. And with a 6-3 split, it’s clear that not everyone misunderstood not only the technology involved, but the business models that both sides employ to conduct business. I’m very disappointed in the results.

What about you?   Will the results of today’s decision effect you? Are you an Aereo customer? How do you feel about the Supreme Court’s decision?   Did they get it right?   Does Aereo’s product constitute a “performance” as legally defined by copyright law?   What do you think should have happened?   Why don’t you join me in the discussion area below and give me your opinion?

UPDATE:
Since writing this column early the morning that the decision was announced (2014-06-25), Aereo has released the following statement.   I’ve read it a couple of times, but I’m not entirely certain HOW the company intends to “fight on” as they state in their posting to the public. Perhaps they will modify the way the system works. Perhaps they will work with the networks to somehow provide them with a percentage of their revenue stream.   (Perhaps I’ll win the lottery tonight and it won’t matter…)

In the end, I do believe this is a huge setback for the American consumer.   I will be monitoring this story and will report on any materially interesting updates that become available.

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