Last year, the country's largest broadcasters petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on Aereo, a service that streams broadcast TV over the internet using thousands of mini-antennas. Now, the Supreme Court is saying that it will hear an appeal from networks including Walt Disney, Fox, ABC, NBC Universal, and CBS. Dana McClintock from CBS corporate communications tweeted a statement, saying that "we are pleased that our case will be heard and we look forward to having our day in court."
CBS: "We are pleased that our case will be heard and we look forward to having our day in court."— Dana McClintock (@Dana_McClintock) January 10, 2014
Ever since it launched, Aereo has been the subject of a complex legal battle — networks have sued Aereo in many of the places it launched, and the company has counter-sued in some cases. The main complaint from the networks is that Aereo is violating copyright law be retransmitting signals without paying the same retransmission fees that cable and satellite providers pay. Aereo has tried to get around that by installing an antenna for every single customer it has, making the argument that it is essentially operating as an internet antenna for the content that is already free over the airwaves.
The coming Supreme Court fight is actually something Aereo has been looking forward to. Last month, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia said that "we are unwavering in our belief that Aereo's technology falls squarely within the law." Rather than deal with protracted legal battles in local areas across the country, it appears that Aereo would rather let the Supreme Court decide so it can continue its growth across the US unabated. "We want this resolved on the merits rather than through a wasteful war of attrition," said Kanojia.
"This case is critically important not only to Aereo, but to the entire cloud computing and cloud storage industry. "
Aereo has responded with a lengthy statement of its own that backs up Kanojia's earlier remarks. "We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer's right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice," it reads.
There's no word yet on when the broadcaster complaints will be formally presented to and ruled on by the Supreme Court, but there's now a chance that Aereo might be able to quell its legal worries on a larger scale — or that the service might have to revamp significantly or shut down entirely. However, past decisions may give Aereo a reason to be optimistic — last year, the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from TV networks, concluding that Aereo's system does not infringe the broadcaster's copyrights.
The full Aereo statement is below:
"We said from the beginning that it was our hope that this case would be decided on the merits and not through a wasteful war of attrition. We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court and we have every confidence that the Court will validate and preserve a consumer's right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR, and watch that recording on a device of their choice.
"This case is critically important not only to Aereo, but to the entire cloud computing and cloud storage industry. The landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision provided much needed clarity for the cloud industry and as a result, helped foster massive investment, growth and innovation in the sector. The challenges outlined in the broadcasters’ filing make clear that they are using Aereo as a proxy to attack Cablevision itself and thus, undermine a critical foundation of the cloud computing and storage industry.
"We believe that consumers have a right to use an antenna to access over-the-air television and to make personal recordings of those broadcasts. The broadcasters are asking the Court to deny consumers the ability to use the cloud to access a more modern-day television antenna and DVR. If the broadcasters succeed, the consequences to consumers and the cloud industry are chilling.
"We remain unwavering in our confidence that Aereo’s technology falls squarely within the law and our team will continue to work hard to provide our consumers with best-in-class technology that delights and adds meaningful value to their lives."
We have also received a statement from Cablevision regarding the lawsuit:
Cablevision remains confident that while the Aereo service violates copyright, the Supreme Court will find persuasive grounds for invalidating Aereo without relying on the broadcasters’ overreaching — and wrong — copyright arguments that challenge the legal underpinning of all cloud-based services.