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Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo Streaming Service 484

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tiny-antennas-not-tiny-enough dept.
New submitter Last_Available_Usern (756093) writes that the Aereo saga is likely over. "The U.S. Supreme Court today dealt a potentially fatal blow to Aereo, an Internet service that allows customers to watch broadcast TV programs on mobile devices by renting a small DVR and antennas (in supported cities) to record and then retransmit local programming on-demand over the internet." Ruling (PDF). Aereo was found to be publicly transmitting, according to SCOTUSBlog "The essence of the Aereo ruling is that Aereo is equivalent to a cable company, not merely an equipment provider."
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Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo Streaming Service

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  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @10:57AM (#47314967) Journal

    Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, stressed that it was a limited decision that will not “discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies.”

    ...and he's certain of that - how?

  • by hendrips (2722525) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:22AM (#47315217)

    He almost certainly means that from a strictly legal standpoint, rather than as a general statement. It's somewhat common for the Supreme Court to put a disclaimer in an opinion stating that the opinion was so narrowly focused that it shouldn't be used as a precedent in other seemingly analogous cases. Presumably, this comment is more of a command to the lower courts, rather than a prediction of the future.

    So, if Company X wants to start a business that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, Aereo's business, any legal challenge against Company X would still have to be upheld on its own merit. Challengers couldn't cite this Aereo decision as legally relevant.

    Now, whether this ruling will have chilling effects, other than its legal precedent, is a different question.

  • Re:Wrong decision (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:23AM (#47315229)

    More at the Cable companies have agreed to pay the broadcasters for a per subscriber fee to license those broadcasts. Apparently Aereo was not. Netflix has reached an agreement with content providers to provider broadcast over the internet and has the rights to do so.

    Aereo apparently did not.

    Now if you stream netflix to your computer, then say put a webcam in front to record and then stream to people via a 3rd party site, then you'd be publically broadcasting.

    When you watch netflix on your device over wifi you are simply consuming...

  • Because they were able to successfully extort cable companies for doing the same thing 50 years ago.

  • Re:Wrong decision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bobbied (2522392) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:24AM (#47315249)

    Wouldn't the ruling also make cable boxes illegal, too?

    The cable network is a public network in the sense that hundreds or thousands of people are on that network.

    Uh, no... The ruling simply says Areo is operating a cable service and is thus required to obtain rights to retransmit the material (by paying fees). The cable company has already obtained retransmit rights (and paid the necessary fees) and thus can place their box in your home.

    In short, Areo is governed by the SAME laws and rules as the cable company.

  • Re:Wrong decision (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:31AM (#47315349) Journal

    Imagine you rent an apartment in San Francisco, hook your DVR up to the antenna, and set up Internet to watch it from New York.

    Now imagine you rent that DVR from an electronics rental company.

    Now imagine you also get an account with LogMeIn as your access method to your DVR.

    Now imagine the landlord, the electronics rental company, and LogMeIn are all the same company.

    That's Aereo.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:35AM (#47315393) Homepage

    His black robe doesn't allow him to alter the natural laws of the universe or the basic principle that a rule once made applies to EVERYONE.

    Declaring that a file transferred to a single person constitutes a "public performance" applies to EVERYONE.

    That's the way the law works.

    That's what Aereo was depending on. They exploited the rules created by another SCOTUS precedent. They abided by those rules.

    The lower courts will apply this rule. It will have to be litigated all the way to the supremes before they can declare that some rule doesn't apply to a particular person.

  • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:43AM (#47315503)

    It has nothing to do with the technology. And the law governing copyright and broadcast rights has been pretty clear for a long time. It would be no different than my neighbor on the hill that gets great OTA reception capturing those broadcasts, running a cable down to my house and charging me to "watch" signals he captured. He wouldn't have the rights to transmit that copyrighted broadcast/telecast unless he went to the networks and got a written agreement.

    Or let's say he has a big radio antenna and can get radio broadcasts from say KMOX, then retransmits that signal to an FM frequency of his choosing. (Yes I know FCC licensing and all that, but let's ignore that and just look at the fact that the technology doesn't matter) He'd need a license from KMOX to retransmit their copyrighted broadcasts. Ever listen to a baseball game, especially on the Radio? Somewhere around the 5th to 7th inning I grew up with Jack Buck or Mike Shannon saying: "This broadcast is presented by the authority of Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals, LLC. Accounts and descriptions of the game may not be retransmitted or broadcast without prior written consent of the St. Louis Cardinals, LLC. And there is a such thing as the "Cardinals Radio Network" in which smaller stations away from KMOX retransmit KMOX's broadcast of the game on their local FM or AM frequency. But they have a license to do so.

    Aereo is no different. You are just replacing radio waves with the internet. Technology for delivery is different, but the legalities are the same. That's why the Justice is saying that it shouldn't have a chilling effect on technology. If Aereo had a license or got a license from the broadcasters to carry their stream over the internet, then no harm no foul.

  • by sirwired (27582) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:45AM (#47315539)

    The Supreme Court was (rightfully, IMHO) unimpressed by a technical loophole allowing Aereo to essentially run their own cable provider without paying the fees cable and satellite providers must pay. But...

    Personally, I don't think the retransmission fees should be legal. If a user is within the service area of a broadcast station, anybody should be able to use whatever means necessary to obtain that station; this seems to be a logical extension of the broadcaster's license to use the radio spectrum to service a certain area. After all, somebody with poor reception, but still within the service area, is still excluded from using that spectrum for other uses. (Outside the broadcaster's licensed service area, retransmission fees make a whole lot of sense...)

    But since the fees ARE legal, Aereo's workaround creates an inherently inequitable situation where cable and satellite providers must pay retransmission fees, but Aereo avoided them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:49AM (#47315591)

    Say what you will about the VA, it still overall gets the best results for its patients for the lowest cost of _ANY_ healthcare provider arrangement in the U.S.
    The only reason it's got such problems right now is because the Republicans have cut or frozen its funding whenever possible, pushing the VA toward their fantasy that the government can't get anything done properly. Nobody can without proper resources.

    And you missed a chance at a deeper sophmoric pot-shot, the V.A. is not only single-payer it is flat-out socialist. The government owns all the VA facilities and the VA staff are government employees.

  • by Varka (767489) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:54AM (#47315661)
    What if your neighbor let you put an antenna up on his property, and run a cable from YOUR antenna to YOUR receiver?
  • by SydShamino (547793) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:00PM (#47315749)

    On the other hand, if you contracted with your neighbor to rent a patch of his land, and you ran your own antenna up there so you could get the OTA signals yourself separately from his reception, that should be A-ok. That's even true if he already had a spare antenna installed and you just rent it from him.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:02PM (#47315773)

    It seems to me that judges should be ruling based on the law, not perceived ancillary social influences.

    For lower courts that is (largely) true but for SCOTUS it is not. The Constitution is not 100% black and white and many aspects of it are open to interpretation. The job of SCOTUS (and lower federal courts to some extent) is to provide that interpretation when there is a disagreement. This interpretation effectively is identical to making legislation. Furthermore interpretations over time tend to reflect the morals and social influences of the day. Cases like Dred Scott v Sandford [wikipedia.org] once upheld interpretations of the law that today would be considered reprehensible. At some level the decisions that SCOTUS judges make reflects their belief systems, particularly on hot button topics like abortion where decisions are based more on personal morality than objective evidence. That's why we have 9 judges instead of just one.

    Legislative makes the law, and judicial merely determines if actions are legal or not legal? Quaint, no?

    Each branch of the government makes certain types of laws. The Legislative branch makes statues [wikipedia.org], the Executive branch makes regulations [wikipedia.org] and the Judiciary makes case law [wikipedia.org]. All three are necessary and proper to the functioning of civil society. All three are laws in every sense that matters. If any branch of the government was unable to make laws then that branch of government would be powerless against the other branches. Checks and balances only work if you can make laws.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:39PM (#47316171)
    I haven't read through the ruling, but I suspect they just applied the "quacks like a duck" rule. Regardless of the technical nuances, Aereo operates like a rebroadcaster (takes services subscriptions, forwards broadcast transmissions to them). Therefore it must be a rebroadcaster.

    I suspect the ruling may have been different if Aereo had required customers to buy their own antennas, and only charged an installation fee to host the antenna and monthly hardware insurance fee to replace broken ones. To draw from the analogy someone posted below, that'd be like you buying your own antenna and asking to place it on your neighbor's property because he sits on top of the hill blocking your house. Dynamically assigning a micro-antenna to a subscriber on-demand just blurs the line. (The fact that all this is technically stupid when you could just use a single antenna is simply a consequence of Copyright law creating artificial scarcity and giving content producers a monopoly on distribution.)

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