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Wednesday, 25 June 2014 20:16

Aereo Loses in Supreme Court

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In an all-or-nothing bet, Aereo suffered a tremendous loss in the Supreme Court this Wednesday. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that Aereo's technology, which transmits a copyrighted television program over the Internet, is a "public performance" as defined by the Copyright Act, and as a result its streams violated US copyright laws.

Aereo subscribers paid a monthly rental fee, starting at just $8 a month, in order to capture over-the-air television signals using the company's dime-sized antennas. Users could then watch near-real-time television and record programs on the major broadcast networks via the Internet. The service model is particulary disruptive, because it offers traditional television at just a fraction of the cost of a cable or satellite television bill, and additionally, may allow current cable and satellite companies to circumvent paying a "retransmission fee", which approximately totals more than $4 billion annually. Therefore, the loss for Aereo meant a huge victory for the broadcast networks.

In makings its decision, the Supreme Court argued that Aereo is not simply being an "equipment provider" as it argues, but rather, Aereo has "an overwhelming likeness to cable companies" that performs the copyrighted works publicly. Unfortunately this "looks like a duck" test offers little in the way of an analytical model for predicting the legality of future broadcasting technologies. Ironically, the Court advised that its decision here is not intended to limit new and novel technologies, and argued that commercial actors and interest entities would be free to seek action from Congress.

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Tony Guo

As a specialized technology counsel, Tony supports his clients in the high tech, creative, and online industries. His primary areas of practice include intellectual property protection, Internet law, and startups. Tony is a USPTO registered patent attorney, as well as a licensed lawyer in California and Florida. He comes from a background involving considerable hardware and software development experience, having worked in both development and IT roles in the tech and finance industries.

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