Supreme Court Shuts Off Streaming of Live TV Provided by Aereo

June 26, 2014

By: Mary K. Murray, Ph.D.

Hamilton Brook Smith Reynolds Alert

  • Supreme Court holds on-line streaming of live network TV by third party company Aereo to paying customers is a violation of U.S. Copyright Law

In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that Aereo’s system of transmitting live TV to its customers over the Internet at roughly the same time it is being aired by the networks constitutes a public performance and, therefore, is an infringement of the networks’ copyrighted material. American Broadcasting Co., Inc., v. Aereo, Inc., No.13-461, (Sup. Ct. - June 25, 2014).

Aereo sells a service that permits a customer to view live TV by streaming over the Internet.  A subscriber to the service can select a TV show to which an antenna dedicated to the customer is then tuned, and the show is retransmitted to a device, such as a smartphone or computer, by streaming through the internet. The antenna is located in a centralized facility.  The majority opinion, by Justice Breyer, stated that Aereo was “not simply an equipment provider,” but a pay-TV provider (e.g., cable company), obligated to pay networks for the right to air content on personal TVs.

The Court made clear that its ruling was limited to Aereo’s technology – “Given the limited nature of this holding, the court does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies” and “cloud computing, DVRs, and other novel issues not before the court … should await a case in which they are squarely presented.”

The dissent, by Justices Scalia and joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, stated that Aereo’s streaming service is not a public performance of copyrighted network material because “Aereo does not ‘perform’ at all.”  The dissent also stated that “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.”
 

PDF FileView as PDF

About

June 26, 2014

By: Mary K. Murray, Ph.D.

Hamilton Brook Smith Reynolds Alert

  • Supreme Court holds on-line streaming of live network TV by third party company Aereo to paying customers is a violation of U.S. Copyright Law

In a 6-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court held that Aereo’s system of transmitting live TV to its customers over the Internet at roughly the same time it is being aired by the networks constitutes a public performance and, therefore, is an infringement of the networks’ copyrighted material. American Broadcasting Co., Inc., v. Aereo, Inc., No.13-461, (Sup. Ct. - June 25, 2014).

Aereo sells a service that permits a customer to view live TV by streaming over the Internet.  A subscriber to the service can select a TV show to which an antenna dedicated to the customer is then tuned, and the show is retransmitted to a device, such as a smartphone or computer, by streaming through the internet. The antenna is located in a centralized facility.  The majority opinion, by Justice Breyer, stated that Aereo was “not simply an equipment provider,” but a pay-TV provider (e.g., cable company), obligated to pay networks for the right to air content on personal TVs.

The Court made clear that its ruling was limited to Aereo’s technology – “Given the limited nature of this holding, the court does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies” and “cloud computing, DVRs, and other novel issues not before the court … should await a case in which they are squarely presented.”

The dissent, by Justices Scalia and joined by Justices Thomas and Alito, stated that Aereo’s streaming service is not a public performance of copyrighted network material because “Aereo does not ‘perform’ at all.”  The dissent also stated that “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.”
 

PDF FileView as PDF

Back to the Top