By now, you have probably heard about the Supreme Court’s decision on the case called American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo. In short, the Justices voted 6 to 3 in favor of the broadcast industry. Justice Breyer’s opinion was supported by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Kagen, Kennedy, and Sotomayor. The Justices who dissented were Justices Scalia, Alito, and Thomas.
Within seconds after the decision was revealed, rage swept across the internet. The “Court of Public Opinion” clearly feels that the SCOTUS decision stinks. Those hoped to finally being able to “cut the cord” and get rid of their cable bill forever are not going to see that happen through Aereo right now.
In plain English, this is a case about copyright (at least, that’s how SCOTUS sees it). The basic idea is that if you make a work – such as a television show – you can get a copyright. No one else is allowed to “publicly preform” that work unless they pay you. Aereo doesn’t pay the copyright owners, so SCOTUS decided that what Aereo was providing was illegal.
The Justices did not choose to make a decision about some related, and important, concepts. They didn’t specify how the copyright laws apply to services that aren’t exactly like the cable companies. They felt that their decision regarding Aereo did not call into question of the legality regarding cloud computing. Personally, I think that Justices’ lack of clarifying about these concepts is going to lead to more lawsuits as companies fight about where the real boundary is between legal and illegal.
Aereo released a statement from CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia regarding the SCOTUS decision. Here are some key points from the statement:
“…Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States. And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those wh can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”
“…We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done. We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”