Aereo, the popular yet controversial online TV streaming service, is all but dead. Following a copyright battle that began in April, the Supreme Court has ruled against the broadcasting company 6 to 3, deeming Aereo's practice of transmitting the content of cable providers over the Internet violates copyright law.
This ruling will mean the almost certain demise of Aereo's service, which allows users to watch live TV and record shows for $8 to $12 a month, depending on how much DVR space a viewer wants. Each Aereo customer has access to their own small TV antenna located in their area, which can rebroadcast local TV signals to smartphones, tablets, PCs and set-top boxes.
The legality of Aereo's service has been tricky to determine from the start. Broadcasters such as ABC argue that Aereo is providing public performances of their content and thus violating the Copyright Act, while Aereo argues that it is giving each of its users a private means of accessing local TV, just like a traditional antenna would. The problem is, cable companies pay to rebroadcast content, while Aereo does not. Aereo is well aware of this, but has noted that a court has never ruled that transmitting a recording for personal use should come with a fee.
Despite Aereo's argument, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the company's service makes Aereo essentially a cable provider and thus subject to copyright law. As pointed out by The Verge, the court summary stated that ""Congress would as much have intended to protect a copyright holder from the unlicensed activities of Aereo as from those of cable companies."
While the ruling doesn't necessarily mean that Aereo is gone for good, the cloud-based TV provider would have to pay licensing fees to keep its service alive. If Aereo is even able to reach a deal with broadcasters, its customers would likely have to start paying way more than $8 a month to use the service.
Even if you're not an Aereo subscriber, this ruling could affect the way you stream TV content in the future. The court has now created a precedent for Aereo-like services, meaning that similar live TV streamers like FilmOn and Simple.tv could either become more expensive or disappear. There are other, less legally gray means of watching TV online (like streaming right from a cable channel's website), but it looks like fully-featured online transmission services like Aereo are in serious danger.
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