Supreme Court Rules Against Aereo TV Streaming Service

Today in a 6-3 decision the Supreme Court has ruled against Aereo in favor a consortium of major broadcasting companies who initially brought suit against the New York-based start up in March of 2012.

SupremesAereo's service allowed subscribers to stream local broadcasts from markets not their own through a series of rented antennae. Current available in select markets, the service circumvented traditional broadcasting methods, allowing subscribers to watch local television via the internet. Aereo also avoided paying substantial the retransmission consent fees that make up a sizable chunk of broadcasting revenue.

The National Football League and Major League Baseball filed an amicus brief last fall, warning that public sports broadcasting would shift to cable broadcasts, a threat that would likely be mirrored by other popular forms of broadcasting. Despite its clever workaround, the Court's held that Aereo did not, in fact, operate "simply as an equipment provider," which had been the company's primary defense.

AereoRather, Aereo acted as a cable tv company and thus was in violation of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act. "[This is] a massive setback for the American consumer," said Aereo CEO Chet Kenojia. "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."

Barry Diller, whose company IAC funded Aereo to the tune of $20.5 million, told CNBC: "We did try, but it's over now."


  1. EchtKultig says

    American media and telecommunications is one of the world’s greatest ripoffs, albeit thankfully one of the few things we pay more for than the rest of the world. (at least gas, meat and water are dirt cheap!) It’s only going to get worse as Kabletown comes to own, well, everything. But I can’t say their decision is wrong in this case. Clearly the Aereo device violates that (corrupt) law.

  2. Randy says

    This one of the rare times when Scalia-Thomas, and Alito, got it right.

    Unfortunately, the US has a problem with copyright embedded into the constitution. It’s long, long overdue for amendment, because it’s being used to prop up an obsolete, inefficient business model that crushes innovation and free speech.

  3. XBAILEY says

    YAY to the Supreme Court. You think it’s hindering free speech and net neutrality but it’s not. A LOT of money is spent to create the content on the major broadcast networks. Money that is going to artists, actors and EVERYONE involved in producing the content. Like it or not, its mainly funded by advertising dollars. Allowing a company like Aereo to basically take that content and profit it off of it without paying back to those who created it is no different than stealing. Sucks, but it’s the truth.

  4. Keppler says

    Interesting that Towleroad would choose to report on this SCOTUS decision, while ignoring its decision (also issued today) on warrantless cell phone searches. Is TV broadcast technology somehow gayer than personal privacy?

  5. Tatts says

    To Jamal49, Echtkultig, Keiran, Randy:
    A: Cut your cable if you’re so concerned.
    B. Use an antenna. This doesn’t threaten over-the-air in any way.
    C. The protection of copyright is critical to the creators of any medium. And that includes the artists.
    D. Aereo was just a high-tech scam, doing what cable does, except over the Internet, without paying the creators of the content (as they should be).

  6. anon says

    It’s odd, but Congress specifically carved out an exception to licensing for over the air transmission. Then it essentially gave a monopoly grant, not to the copyright holder, but to the cable companies, as a license franchiser. It was the cable companies that sued, not the over the air broadcasters. The core problem here is that the 1976 law does not take into account the distributed nature of the Internet. It’s a local, utility-style monopoly grant.

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