Supreme Court forces Aereo to shut their doors... Forever?

Have you heard of Aereo? If you haven't, you're not alone. The company was is a small startup that threatened to change the face of television distribution. Their business model was to "rent" users individual micro-antennas. From there, users could stream and record programming that is free over the air.

Aereo maintains that their service is not illegal due to the fact that they manage an individual antenna for each and every user of their service. In addition, since they only sell to people who live in cities where the company maintains the antennas, Aereo contended that it's simply a cloud version of what people could do on their own.

The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud. - Chet Kanojia, Founder and CEO of Aereo

Unfortunately for users of the service, last week the Supreme Court ruled that the company's offering falls under "rebroadcasting" and is thus illegal unless the company has deals in place with the various networks.

Today the founder and CEO of Aereo sent an email out thanking everyone for their support but saying that the company has "decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps." They're also refunding customers for the last month of service. The complete letter stated:

A little over three years ago, our team embarked on a journey to improve the consumer television experience, using technology to create a smart, cloud-based television antenna consumers could use to access live over the air broadcast television.

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision in favor of Aereo, dealing a massive setback to consumers.

As a result of that decision, our case has been returned to the lower Court. We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps. You will be able to access your cloud-based antenna and DVR only until 11:30 a.m. ET today. All of our users will be refunded their last paid month. If you have questions about your account, please email support@aereo.com or tweet us @AereoSupport.

The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud.

On behalf of the entire team at Aereo, thank you for the outpouring of support. It has been staggering and we are so grateful for your emails, Tweets and Facebook posts. Keep your voices loud and sign up for updates at ProtectMyAntenna.org - our journey is far from done.

It will be interesting to see if the company can reinvent themselves, but with no further legal options available, we, unfortunately, suspect they'll disappear.

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23 Comments

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Ad Man Gamer said,
The Supreme Court has been serving nothing but corporate interests lately. :/

Considering Scalia wrote the dissenting argument with Thomas and Alito. I'd agree with you. He's shown to be hard to buy, and go against bought votes.

If Aereo paid retransmission fees, like cable and satellite companies do, there would be less of a case against them (Aereo). Often, being the first means the first to fall, but I hope that they keep chinking away at the armour.

If anything, what Aereo showed with their popularity is that what people like a lot (as if it was a mystery before) is getting content in a convenient to them manner. If any other operator offered that, why would people sign up to Aereo's service? Aereo have other operators beat on features. People don't care very much about what happens to their money after they pay it to Aereo, as long as the service quality is good. So, if Aereo had to pay re-transmission fees and users could still get service from them, it's all good.

vanx said,
If Aereo paid retransmission fees, like cable and satellite companies do, there would be less of a case against them (Aereo). Often, being the first means the first to fall, but I hope that they keep chinking away at the armour.

But the point is that they shouldn't have to pay retransmit fees because they're not retransmitting. They have an individual antenna for each person, and each user gets their own personal copy of a program. It's literally no different than if I were to record a show on my own DVR and watch it later, which is what the minority response in the Supreme Court said. They were simply getting rid of the home DVR and doing it for you.

But they are re-transmitting. From whatever form of storage programming resides on when recorded from an individual antenna, to a user's device. They receive a signal, store it in digital form and then send it to a user when requested. If companies like DirecTV, Dish, Comcast and others pay channels fees to receive signal from them and send it to their subscribers (aka retransmitting), why shouldn't Aereo play by the same rules? And if it's that clear-cut, why aren't DirecTV, Dish, Comcast and others fighting in court alongside Aereo to not pay those fees arguing that each of their subscribers has an individual receiver/dish with unique authorisation and thus gets their own personal copy of a program?

There's a huge difference between what Aereo is doing and what DirecTV/Dish/Comcast does though. Aereo put up an individual antenna for EACH subscriber. They then recorded shows you asked for via EACH antenna and stored an INDIVIDUAL copy of the program for EACH person. So let's say we both had the service, and both wanted to record and watch an episode of "Person of Interest." Aereo had two antennas and two physical copies of Person of Interest available. It's no different than if I recorded that show via my OWN antenna onto my OWN DVR -- the only difference is that it's in the cloud instead and someone else is managing the hardware for me.

DirecTV/Dish/Comcast/etc are actually rebroadcasting. They fire off "Person of Interest" to anyone who wants it. Even if it's "on demand," they still only have one copy of the show that they retransmit to everyone. That's where the key difference is.

We can nitpick about aspects of this case until cows come home. Needless to say, if Aereo must have thought that they were in a shady territory to circumvent things that way with individual copies for different people. I understand that the victim here is the consumer, but if the highest court in the country does not see things the same way you're seeing this, they should plough their spare dough into lobbying for a legislative change.

vanx said,
if Aereo must have thought that they were in a shady territory to circumvent things that way with individual copies for different people.

That's pretty much what the Supreme Court justices who ruled in favor of Aereo said -- it's a loophole, they should be allowed to stay in business, and if the legislative branch wants to change that loophole, they can. The other justices (IMHO) got it wrong - judges are supposed to rule on the laws as they're written, not as they think they SHOULD have been written.

what networks doesn't like about that Aereo would enable their viewers to deliberately skips ads.

in anycase, PC race will continue to mock TV for having no adblock.

Torolol said,
what networks doesn't like about that Aereo would enable their viewers to deliberately skips ads.

in anycase, PC race will continue to mock TV for having no adblock.

What about having a DVR / TiVo? I skip ads all the time.

Dinggus said,

What about having a DVR / TiVo? I skip ads all the time.


All networks hate the skipping of ads because ads are what make them money. But somehow DVR's and TiVo have skirted passed that. Not really sure why Aereo is any different. SMH.

Gergel7077 said,

All networks hate the skipping of ads because ads are what make them money. But somehow DVR's and TiVo have skirted passed that. Not really sure why Aereo is any different. SMH.

They fall under the same ruling from the supreme court as VCRs and other tape recording stuff.

NastySasquatch said,

They fall under the same ruling from the supreme court as VCRs and other tape recording stuff.


That is fine, but again how is Aereo different? They offer VCR\DVR\TiVo like capabilities as well. That is why I don't see much difference other than the networks looking for retransmission fees.

Gergel7077 said,

That is fine, but again how is Aereo different? They offer VCR\DVR\TiVo like capabilities as well. That is why I don't see much difference other than the networks looking for retransmission fees.

Other networks pay the content providers a licensing fee. Aereo felt they didn't need to pay a licensing fee.

calimike said,
How about Aereo with paid subscription like cable or WWE network?

It wasn't free. They were basically charging for someone else's content.

Wrong there basically they are charging you for Antenna, (Hardware)Disk Space, Electrically things you don't have deal on your local network your self like reconfigure you router to make it work and now in a way this is bad because now the greedy Fox Network got hair up it ahole and is attack Dishnetwork again sure there are other option but non of them work well on Internet side sure there are other option like Netflix/Hulu Plus but there not like reg TV where can watch local news, etc or what ever else is on ant where on a mobile device very well do keep in mind you need fast upload speed for it to work right and as right now there only a few TV tuner being build and non with FM for mobile device to turn it into a portable TV/Radio "Elgato EyeTV Mobile TV iDevice only and it 30pin not Lightning and there no Android Smartphones/Tablets support as right now unless you live DTV area like in Europe/Asia or non ATSC" so now it going to create a litigation headache for a number of companies.. and here we go get out the Popcorn.