Understanding Aereo: What Happens Now

At the end of June, the U.S. Supreme Court made an historic 6-3 ruling in regards to copyright law – Aereo, a company which had been streaming television over the Internet and charging customers for the service – was found to be in violation of the Copyright Act of 1976.

Despite racking up numerous victories in smaller courts in the past, the Supremes decided that the New York business was publicly performing copyrighted works without permission, essentially declaring it to be a cable company.

“If we lose we’re finished,” said investor Barry Diller back in April. He previously told the Wall Street Journal “If the court says you can't do it, it's over.”

He continued this line of thought when he did in fact acknowledge that “it’s over now” in a CNBC interview.

Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia had similar reservations. “There is no [alternative] plan,” he stated. “If we don’t succeed in that despite our best efforts, good law on our side, and the merits of our case, it will be a tragedy but it is what it is.”

Upon hearing the Court’s verdict, Kanojia went on to say “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."

After the decision, Aereo announced a temporary suspension of their service, and requested that their subscribers contact lawmakers to express their disappointment. It is believed they may still have up to five months to completely shutter their doors.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s over – for Aereo, or the technology. 

First, Aereo has the option to re-invent themselves. While the Supremes ruled that Aereo cannot publicly stream TV broadcasts over the Internet, that doesn’t mean they can’t supply the information and hardware for consumers to do this on their own – something that many of their competitors already do. They could also decide to pay for the rebroadcast rights and continue their business, which would likely involve a raise in fees for the consumer.

On July 9th, Aereo decided to act upon its comparison to a cable system, and is seeking a compulsory license to broadcast, similar to another streaming business, FilmOn.

That effort was rejected on July 17th by the U.S. Copyright Office.

FilmOn founder Alki David noted that even though Aereo lost, “history has shown that technology always wins in the end. Ultimately that is where this goes.”

Aereo certainly isn’t finished by any means.

Author: Brian Cameron

Image credit: Shutterstock
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