Supreme Court to hear Aereo Case

By Joe Flint and Ryan Faughnder
Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Supreme Court could settle the fate of a new technology company that television broadcasters fear would destroy their business.

On Friday, the high court said it would hear arguments that Aereo Inc., a start-up firm, violates copyright law by enabling its customers to stream local television stations over the Internet and that it should be shut down.

The major media companies seeking the court’s review include CBS Corp., 21st Century Fox, Walt Disney Co. and Comcast Corp.

Launched in 2012 and backed by media mogul Barry Diller, Aereo is currently available in 10 cities, including New York, where it is based.

It distributes broadcast signals via a tiny antenna and offers customers access to a cloud-based digital video recorder that holds up to 60 hours of content. The service costs $8 to $12 a month.

Broadcasters fear that Aereo, which does not pay them for their content, could grow in popularity and threaten the distribution fees it gets from pay-TV distributors, including cable and satellite companies, in return for carrying their channels.

Aereo has argued that it is merely an antenna service and is no threat to the bottom line of broadcasters.

So far, the courts have agreed with Aereo.

Last year the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York said Aereo’s transmissions and recordings are not “public performances” of copyrighted material.

That is the ruling broadcasters are seeking to have overturned by the Supreme Court.

“We believe that Aereo’s business model, and similar offerings that operate on the same principle, are built on stealing the creative content of others,” CBS said in a statement Friday. “We are pleased that our case will be heard, and we look forward to having our day in court.”

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