Supreme Court rules against Aereo TV streaming service in copyright challenge

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 6-3 Wednesday against Aereo [corporate website], an online service that streams and records publicly broadcast television programming without paying the broadcasters. In American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo, Inc. [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] the court held that Aereo performs petitioners' works publicly within the meaning of the Transmit Clause [text] of the Copyright Act. Aereo charges users a monthly fee to view broadcast TV channels on the users' computers or mobile devices. The plaintiffs, including the networks ABC, 20th Century Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal [corporate websites], filed the petition for certiorari [text, PDF] after the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied their requested injunction [opinion] to shut down Aereo until the case is heard. The broadcasters claimed that Aereo's service violates their copyrights on the broadcast materials and will affect their ability to generate subscription and advertising revenue. In an opinion by Justice Breyer, the Supreme Court agreed: "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. We conclude that it does."

Justice Antonin Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The court heard arguments in the case in April after granting certiorari [JURIST reports] in January. JURIST Guest Columnist Antonio Del Mastro, Northeastern University School of Law, class of 2014, discussed the case [JURIST op-ed] in a recent op-ed.

 

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