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Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 08:01 am PT (11:01 am ET)

Supreme Court side with networks, rules that Aereo flouts copyright

Streaming video startup Aereo — which sells "antenna subscriptions" that allow consumers to stream over-the-air television content to any Mac, iOS device or PC via their Internet connection — is likely to shut down following a Supreme Court ruling that the company's business model violated federal copyright laws.



The Court held that Aereo's customers constitute "the public," and that retransmitting television networks' copyrighted material goes against their exclusive right to perform their works publicly as the holders of the copyright. Justice Breyer wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

"We must decide whether respondent Aereo, Inc., infringes this exclusive right by selling its subscribers a technologically complex service that allows them to watch television programs over the Internet at about the same time as the programs are broadcast over the air," the opinion reads. "We conclude that it does."

Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented, arguing that Aereo's digital transmissions do not constitute a "performance" and, as such, the networks have no standing.

The networks' claim that Aereo directly violates their copyright "fails at the very outset because Aereo does not "perform" at all," Justice Scalia wrote in the dissent. "The Court manages to reach the opposite conclusion only by disregarding widely accepted rules for service-provider liability and adopting in their place an improvised standard ("looks-like-cable-TV") that will sow confusion for years to come."

Though Aereo has yet to respond to the ruling, cofounder Chet Kanojia has previously said that they could have no alternative but to shutter the business if they lost the case. "There is no plan B," Kanojia declared in April.