updated 02:57 pm EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Hearing will decide fate of Aereo, will also have effects on cloud file streaming
In what is likely to be the final stop between Internet over-the-air television streamer Aereo and essentially the entire broadcast industry allied against it, Aereo seems to be fighting an uphill battle. Today's hearing before the US Supreme Court found judges skeptical about Aereo's business model, calling it "based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don't want to comply with."
Aereo is based in its pilot market of New York City. The service gives subscribers the ability to view live and time-shifted streams of broadcasted over-the-air television across the Internet. The hearing at the Supreme Court today was hoped to end Aereo's multi-pronged legal fight against the broadcast industry once and for all. Should Aereo prevail in the Supreme Court, it will see fewer court battles nationwide, and larger freedom to operate without pressure from broadcasters in markets it enters.
Aereo has won most of its initial court proceedings, notably in Boston and New York City, with broadcasters failing to shut down the service in all but one market before today's hearing. Both the Boston and New York judges likened the service to a DVR, whose underlying technology has been declared non-infringing many times in court. The broadcasters nearly immediately appealed their losses, and urged the Supreme Court to hear the case. Aereo agreed to the Supreme Court hearing.
Broadcasters argue that the service infringes on its copyrights on content, despite the requirement that it make its content freely available with over-the-air broadcasting. Aereo's lawyer at the hearing today noted that a negative ruling could cause chilling effects on other cloud computing services where video is stored on the Internet, such as YouTube, and similar other offerings. "The cloud computing industry is freaked out about this case" said Aereo attorney David C. Frederick.
Agreeing with Aereo counsel, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said "what disturbs me on the other side is, I don't understand what a decision [against Aereo] should mean for other technologies."
Broadcast industry attorney Paul D. Clement sees it differently. Commenting on Aereo's array of antennae, with one per subscriber, Clement said "if all they have here is a gimmick, they will probably go out of business, and no one should shed a tear." A ruling is expected before the end of June.