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The Courts The Media Entertainment

Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo Streaming Service 484

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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  • Re:This now requires (Score:5, Informative)

    by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:06AM (#47315031)

    No, nothing about this ruling was based on the constitution. It was ruling whether or not Aereo fell under the provisions of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, specifically the provisions requiring cable TV system operators to pay broadcasters to carry those channels.

    Fixing this would simply require an amendment to that act.

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

    by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:19AM (#47315183)

    Yes, but your cable company has a license from the content providers to transmit those channels to you. My understanding is that Aereo did not.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:19AM (#47315189) Journal

    D - The court actually does mean for the ruling to be narrow; does not see this case as setting a strong precedent and will grant certiorari for what might otherwise be seen as similar media delivery technology cases

  • by VTBlue ( 600055 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:26AM (#47315275)

    Most people think broadcasters still operate under an ad revenue model. This not true today. Cable retransmission deals is where the real money is. If broadcasters were limited to the old ad revenue model, the industry would implode.

    Personally I think we should have the UK model with a TV license. The programming is far superior and enriching to the minds of the citizenry.

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

    by RealGene ( 1025017 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:26AM (#47315283)
    Scalia agrees with you:

    "Unlike video-on-demand services, Aereo does not provide a prearranged assortment of movies and television shows. Rather, it assigns each subscriber an antenna that — like a library card — can be used to obtain whatever broadcasts are freely available. Some of those broadcasts are copyrighted; others are in the public domain. The key point is that subscribers call all the shots: Aereo’s automated system does not relay any program, copyrighted or not, until a subscriber selects the program and tells Aereo to relay it."

  • by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:28AM (#47315305) Homepage Journal

    The supreme court is different. They're supposed to look at issues and decide if this is how our country was supposed to work. If certain actions criminalize a religion without just cause (i.e. the criminalized set of acts is representative of a harmless behavior, or a set of non-criminal acts that only happen under this religion in this way), the Supreme Court may interpret not only that religion is a shield (i.e. Peyote for shaman religions), but also that the law has no other reasonable purpose and is thus wholly invalid so it can fuck off.

    That doesn't mean they always do a good job of it; I only intend that the supreme court is tasked with interpreting the standing of the law itself as well as the standing of the law against a person.

  • Re:This now requires (Score:5, Informative)

    by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:35AM (#47315397)

    Actually, it was more based on the amendments the Congress made to the Copyright Act in 1976, to overturn two previous Supreme Court decisions (Fortnightly and Teleprompter). The Court had ruled that CATV (Community Antenna Television, which is exactly what it sounds like, put up one big antenna, and run coax from there to people's houses; it was used to get signal to areas that couldn't get good broadcast quality) was outside the scope of the Copyright Act, and Congress changed the law to clarify that it was.

    In Aereo, the Court ruled that Aereo was largely similar to those CATV operators - it took the broadcast signal off the air and distributed it to multiple viewers, essentially simultaneous.y.

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

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:53AM (#47315641)

    Here's the actual decision text: []

    It's "publicly transmitting" inasmuch as the people it is transmitted to are "unrelated and unknown to each other", to quote the actual decision. Netflix very likely would be considered to be publicly transmitting as well, but because they've worked out licenses with the content owners, they're not running into any of these problems.

    Mind you, I'm not suggesting by any means that I agree with the decision. I'm merely providing it.

    Disclaimer: IANAL.

  • Re:This now requires (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @11:58AM (#47315723) Journal

    In Aereo, the Court ruled that Aereo was largely similar to those CATV operators - it took the broadcast signal off the air and distributed it to multiple viewers, essentially simultaneous.y.

    And that receiving and carrying it separately for each customer (using a separte tiny antenna and cheap-in-quantity integrated circuit digital radio receiver) was a transparent workaround that attempted to use an interpretation of the letter of the law to violate its intent).

  • by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:03PM (#47315793) Homepage

    This case boiled down to one major issue: Whether the allegedly infringing conduct in this case was engaged in by either Aereo, or by its users. Don't get hung up on the public performance v. private performance issue; it was really certain that if Aereo was liable, that the performance was public; if it were the users, it would be private.

    J. Scalia's dissent does a good job of explaining the issue:

    There are two types of liability for copyright infringement: direct and secondary. As its name suggests, the former applies when an actor personally engages in infringing conduct. Secondary liability, by contrast, is a means of holding defendants responsible for infringement by third parties, even when the defendants âoehave not themselves engaged in the infringing activity.â It applies when a defendant âoeintentionally induc[es] or encourag[es]â infringing acts by others or profits from such acts âoewhile declining to exer- cise a right to stop or limit [them].â

    Most suits against equipment manufacturers and service providers involve secondary-liability claims. For example, when movie studios sued to block the sale of Sonyâ(TM)s Betamax videocassette recorder (VCR), they argued that Sony was liable because its customers were making unauthorized copies. Record labels and movie studios relied on a similar theory when they sued Grokster and StreamCast, two providers of peer-to-peer file-sharing software.

    This suit, or rather the portion of it before us here, is fundamentally different. The Networks claim that Aereo directly infringes their public-performance right. Accordingly, the Networks must prove that Aereo âoeperform[s]â copyrighted works, Â106(4), when its subscribers log in, select a channel, and push the âoewatchâ button. That process undoubtedly results in a performance; the question is who does the performing. If Aereoâ(TM)s subscribers perform but Aereo does not, the claim necessarily fails.
    The Networksâ(TM) claim is governed by a simple but profoundly important rule: A defendant may be held directly liable only if it has engaged in volitional conduct that violates the Act. ...

    A comparison between copy shops and video-on-demand services illustrates the point. A copy shop rents out photocopiers on a per-use basis. One customer might copy his 10-year-oldâ(TM)s drawingsâ"a perfectly lawful thing to doâ" while another might duplicate a famous artistâ(TM)s copyrighted photographsâ"a use clearly prohibited by Â106(1). Either way, the customer chooses the content and activates the copying function; the photocopier does nothing except in response to the customerâ(TM)s commands. Because the shop plays no role in selecting the content, it cannot be held directly liable when a customer makes an infringing copy.

    Video-on-demand services, like photocopiers, respond automatically to user input, but they differ in one crucial respect: They choose the content. When a user signs in to Netflix, for example, âoethousands of . . . movies [and] TV episodesâ carefully curated by Netflix are âoeavailable to watch instantly.â That selection and arrangement by the service provider constitutes a volitional act directed to specific copyrighted works and thus serves as a basis for direct liability.

    The distinction between direct and secondary liability would collapse if there were not a clear rule for determining whether the defendant committed the infringing act. The volitional-conduct requirement supplies that rule; its purpose is not to excuse defendants from accountability, but to channel the claims against them into the correct analytical track. Thus, in the example given above, the fact that the copy shop does not choose the content simply means that its culpability will be assessed using secondary-liability rules rather than direct-liability rules.

    So which is Aereo: the copy shop or the video-on-demand service? In truth, i

  • by TemporalBeing ( 803363 ) <`bm_witness' `at' `'> on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:43PM (#47316201) Homepage Journal
    No, he's basically saying that they issued a very limited ruling that really applies to Aero and extremely similar cases and not ruling the general case that affects everyone. The wording is making that clear to lower courts.
  • by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Wednesday June 25, 2014 @12:51PM (#47316277)

    You don't remember correctly. Breyer voted against Citizens United.

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser