dslreports logo

story category
Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo
by Karl Bode 12:21PM Wednesday Jun 25 2014
The Supreme Court's decision (pdf) in the case of Aereo via broadcasters is in: the Supreme Court has sided with broadcasters and has declared that Aereo's Internet TV service is illegal. Broadcasters had sued the company, claiming that Aereo's use of micro antennas to deliver traditional over the air broadcasts via broadband violated copyright.

The Justices ruled 6-3 against Aereo, with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissenting. The decision makes it clear the court wasn't particularly compelled by Aereo's arguments, including Aereo's claim their service was a "private" performance and therefore didn't violate the law.

"The statute makes clear that the fact that Aereo’s subscribers may receive the same programs at different times and locations is of no consequence. Aereo transmits a performance of petitioners' works "to the public," the decision states.

"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," stated the court. "We conclude that it does."

Digital rights activists have argued that an Aereo loss could jeopardize the evolution of other types of disruptive video technologies such as cloud DVRs, but the Supreme Court proclaimed it "does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies."

Aereo stated the company had no plan B if the Supreme Court were to rule against them.

Update: Aereo's statement on the ruling is embedded in full, below:
“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter. This sends a chilling message to the technology industry. It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ (Majority, page 17) That begs the question: Are we moving towards a permission-based system for technology innovation?

“Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States. And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”

“Justice Scalia’s dissent gets its right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’ (Dissent, page 7) Justice Scalia goes on to say that ‘The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable television systems, see ante, at 16-17, but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its results-driven rule.’ (Dissent, page 11)”

“We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”

352 comments .. click to read

Recommended comments


Mukilteo, WA

3 recommendations

Have an antenna on your home? Wait for 'letter' from Broadcasters

The NAB already has huge lists of homes with antennas on them, it's only a matter of time before the 'local' broadcasters start sending out legal looking letters demanding fee payments from antenna owners. Wait for it. The airwaves no longer are owned by the public, but by the corporations/license holders (for which they paid nothing).


Waterford, MI

6 recommendations

reply to ArgMeMatey

Re: One less excuse to sit around getting diabetes

said by ArgMeMatey:

Who cares? Seems clear that broadcast TV is on its last legs anyway.

To me it was more important from a "state of the technology" perspective than anything else. The content creators, broadcasters and subscription TV people would like nothing more than to freeze technology right where it is now. The Supremes just helped them do that.

I only thank the heavens we didn't have a Court like the current one for Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc..



Chesterfield, MO

2 recommendations

reply to tshirt

Re: Not Surprising

But apparently it would be legal for me to rent the Tivo / Sling box from my local "Rent To Own" store and pay the ISP for power and Internet access.

I agree with Scalia. If Aereo ought not be doing this, then let Congress close the loophole by revising the copyright act to include DVR services. The problem is, it's going to have to be a ridiculous revision to hold that it's OK as long as it's in your home. Unless they don't hold that exception and we all lose the ability to record anything.

If you wish, read his entire dissent. He discusses copy machine shops and how they are not liable for a consumer walking in and violating copyright. That's the "secondary" liability he discusses and why ISPs enjoy exemption because that case has already been decided when the RIAA tried to sue ISPs for being an enabler of someone distributing their material. That's part of Aereo's claim. Per Aereo, they do not perform (direct liability) and they do not decide what customers watch (secondary liability). Scalia discussed Aereo in the terms of a copy machine shop that charges folks for access to the copier and signs them up for a free library card. What folks bring back from the library and copy is not the copy shop's decision nor can we ask them police such activities (like ISPs aren't asked to police whether or not the digital bits their customers transmit are legal).

Here come the drums
Conroe, TX

4 recommendations

reply to silentlooker

Re: Good bye Aereo

You guys should know by now not to feed the troll.

Rosendale, NY

3 recommendations

reply to Chubbysumo


Surely been paid off by their lobbyist buddies.
As usual.
I guess that since corporations are people, they feel that they are still doing their work for the people.
AFAIC, corporations are not people, and the country has lost its way, and is now not a country of WE THE PEOPLE, but one of them, the corporations.
"Understanding is a three-edged sword."

Forest Hills, NY

2 recommendations

reply to IPPlanMan

Re: Aw crap...

thanks asshats - you just set cord cutters back another decade.
and I was expecting to see ala'carte cabletv before i died.
oh well... time to edit my bucket list.



2 recommendations

reply to ITALIAN926

Re: Licensed for unlimited retransmit fees

Once again a poster simply assumes because they can receive a digital signal with an antenna, everyone else can too.

This is wrong. That was one of the points behind Aereo... giving those people a rented antenna to receive these signals, which they are entitled to but could not receive with their own antennas.


3 recommendations

reply to ITALIAN926


said by ITALIAN926:

now they get to negotiate like the MSO's. They still potentially have a product to sell, and pay carriage like everyone else.

Wrong. Why do you think all other live streaming services have failed? The broadcasters will not license/negotiate with any exclusively OTT service provider, period.


anon troll


2 recommendations

Death of Aereo also means the death of free online streaming

Bye Youtube and Dailymotion. Free online streaming has been killed by Copyright maximalism.

Folsom, CA

6 recommendations

Back to piracy

Now that SCOTUS has killed legal means of television over the internet, it's back to places like Ustream and torrents for live/recorded TV.