High Court rules web TV startup infringes on broadcasters’ right

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a startup company’s transmission of broadcast TV programs to its subscribers violated the copyright law.

The Justices voted 6-3 to rule that Aereo of media mogul Barry Diller infringes on the exclusive right of TV broadcasters, incuding Walt Disney Co., CBS, NBC and Fox.

Ruling against Aereo were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Breyer said the ruling only applies to Aereo and not to cloud computing in general.

Aereo assigns a dime-sized antenna to each of its paying subscribers. The antenna, which is activated whenever the subscriber logs in to his account, captures over-the-air television signals and record it to a remote digital video recorder before transmitting it to subscribers, who pay $8 to $12 a month to rent an antenna and control them remotely through their computers or mobile devices. Broadcasters sued claiming Aereo is stealing their content.

Lawyers of the plaintiffs argued that Aereo publicly performed copyrighted work in violation of the Copyright Act. Aereo’s lawyers claimed the company was not doing public performance because it only transmits TV programs to an individual.

Diller said the ruling is a big loss to consumers. Aereo founder and chief executive Chet Kanojia said his company will continue to fight to create innovative technology.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled last year for Aereo so the case, ABC Inc. v. Aereo, No. 13-461, was elevated to the Supreme Court.

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