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Aereo's services ruled illegal by Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court sides with TV broadcasters in case against Aereo's TV over-the-Internet streaming service.
By Ananth Baliga   |   June 25, 2014 at 11:54 AM  |  Updated June 25, 2014 at 12:06 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court, in a three-to-six vote, ruled in favor of TV broadcasters saying that tech startup Aereo's over-the-Internet TV service is illegal.

The ruling in ABC vs. Aereo -- reversing a decision of the U.S. Second District Court -- states that Aereo would have to pay broadcasters copyright fees to transmit TV shows to its subscribers. Aereo had argued that it was only providing the equipment for allowing people to access content that they were already legally allowed to access.

Aereo is a tech startup that allows to subscribers who pay $8 a month to watch over-the-air T.V. over the Internet, rather than using an antenna or a cable subscription to access these transmissions. Aereo would set up tiny antennas near subscribers' homes that would capture TV signals enabling users to watch over-the-air shows or even record them on an online DVR.

The court ruled that Aereo was operating like a cable or satellite provider and subtle technological differences in the back end did not matter. ABC, the primary plaintiff in the case, had argued that Aereo was retransmitting their and other broadcaster's signals over the Internet, thereby violating copyright laws as the the company didn't pay any retransmission fees.

Aereo said that a ruling against them would affect the entire cloud-based media services industry but the court disagreed with them saying the ruling did not endanger other technologies.

Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia has said that the company had no plan B if the verdict went against them but did suggest that Aereo could "explore several alternate options in the case of a loss, including perhaps even paying some sort of retransmission fees to broadcasters."

Currently payment seems like the only viable option for Aereo to stay afloat but it remains to be seen if broadcasters will agree to such a deal.

Follow @antbaliga and @UPI on Twitter.
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