Ahead of I/O yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled on a case that marked a significant point in Aereo’s future. In their ruling, the Supreme Court effectively said the way Aereo does business violated the Copyright Act. Aereo’s CEO has responded to the Supreme Court ruling, and his full response is below.
The ruling means one of two things for Aereo: stop doing business as you are, or start signing licensing fees for the programming you allow customers to replay. CEO Chet Kanojia doesn’t sound as though he wants to sign anything:
Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter. This sends a chilling message to the technology industry. It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ (Majority, page 17) That begs the question: Are we moving towards a permission-based system for technology innovation?
Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States. And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.
Justice Scalia’s dissent gets its right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’ (Dissent, page 7) Justice Scalia goes on to say that ‘The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable television systems, see ante, at 16-17, but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its results-driven rule.’ (Dissent, page 11).
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.
What’s next for Aereo? The world still doesn’t know, and from the looks of it — neither does Aereo. They could try a new avenue, or simply fold up and go home. Well ahead of this judgement, Kanojia said that Aereo would close up shop if it ended this way. Time will tell if that’s what will happen, but for now — it doesn’t look good for Aereo.
They could try their hand outside of the US, but laws elsewhere would likely find them in the same position. Cloud storage is nice, but we’ve got plenty of that. Streaming services are starting to wind down to a few major options, and it’s unlikely Aereo could find a way to service consumers in a way others aren’t.
TV industry executives vowed ahead of this ruling to emulate Aereo if the decision went the opposite way. Perhaps Aereo should seek a partnership with their old adversaries, instead providing their service in an “official” way. The backbone is there, they’d just need to find a common ground. Down and out, Aereo and network TV just might find a resolution to this mess — one that benefits both of them, and us as well.