The Internet streaming service Aereo is acting illegally when it retransmits television shows that its tiny antennas capture for free, the US Supreme Court ruled Wednesday — a major victory for broadcasters at a time when consumers are rapidly moving away from traditional TV viewing.
By a 6-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court found that Aereo, which was developed in Boston, violates US copyright law when it captures broadcast networks’ shows — without permission and without paying for them — and beams them to its customers’ computers and mobile devices for a fee.
The ruling, in addition to spelling a likely end to Aereo’s service, may stymie other innovative upstarts that are developing technologies to deliver television over the Web without the express approval of broadcasters and cable services, industry specialists said.
“After this decision, it’s very hard for me to see how anybody could set up a business offering that kind of service,” said Bruce Ewing, an intellectual property lawyer at Dorsey & Whitney in New York. “The networks are not going anywhere anytime soon, especially after this decision.”
Aereo had couched its case as a technology upstart challenging an industry dinosaur with an innovative way to make watching TV viewing more convenient. But in its ruling, the high court agreed with the broadcast industry that the case was about a much simpler — and timeless — issue: the theft of intellectual property.
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