Judge Nap: 'Gut Feeling' Is Online TV Service Aereo Loses Before Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has begun hearing arguments in a case that could dramatically impact the way we watch TV. Major broadcasters, including 21st Century Fox, accuse the internet broadcaster Aereo of basically stealing their signal from the airwaves and then making it available to online subscribers.
The justices appeared on the fence about which way to go in this case. Here's more from FoxNews.com:
Supreme Court justices hearing a dispute between broadcasters and an Internet startup company -- a case that has the potential to bring big changes to the television industry -- reportedly appear unsure about a ruling.
The company is Aereo Inc., and the justices are hearing arguments Tuesday over its service that gives subscribers in 11 U.S. cities access to television programs on their laptop computers, smartphones and other portable devices.
Midday Tuesday, justices appeared unsure whether to rule against Aereo, with several raising concerns about how a ruling in favor of broadcasters would impact cloud computing services, according to Reuters.
Justice Stephen Breyer told The Associated Press that the prospect makes him nervous.
Broadcasters say Aereo is essentially stealing their programming by taking free television signals from the airwaves and sending them over the Internet without paying redistribution fees. Those fees, increasingly important to the broadcasters, were estimated at $3.3 billion last year.
Arguments for and against the legality of the service have focused on the 1976 Copyright Act, which protects “private” rebroadcasts and deems “public” rebroadcasts of network feeds as illegal, Digital Trends reports.
Broadcasters claim the service is a public broadcast, while Aereo says it’s only providing legal, private performances.
The case involving Internet innovation is the latest for justices who sometimes seem to struggle to stay abreast of technological changes.
Broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS sued Aereo for copyright infringement, saying Aereo should pay for redistributing the programming the same way cable and satellite systems do. Some networks have said they will consider abandoning free over-the-air broadcasting if they lose at the Supreme Court.
Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia recently told The Associated Press that broadcasters can't stand in the way of innovation, saying, "the Internet is happening to everybody, whether you like it or not." Aereo, backed by billionaire Barry Diller, plans to more than double the number of cities it serves, although the high court could put a major hurdle in the company's path if it sides with the broadcasters.
The judge explained that Aereo has "astutely" convinced lower courts that it is not violating copyright laws.
"The lawful way [around copyright law] is this: by putting a VCR in the sky, in the clouds as they call it. [Aereo argues] all we're doing is - we're not preventing you from getting a signal, we're not reselling the signal - we're copying it and storing it for you and then you can download it when you want," said Napolitano.
He pointed out that after reading the oral arguments and the briefs on the case, the judges seem "troubled" by having to make a "technological decision more than a legal decision."
Concha said what Aereo is doing is "theft," just like someone who records a movie at a theater and illegally sells copies. He said if Aereo wins, cable companies will then refuse to pay broadcasters for their signal.
He then noted that broadcasters may respond by moving some events to cable, where they cannot be stolen and viewed online.
"The broadcast networks are saying, 'OK, you want that Super Bowl? It's gonna be on NBC next year? No, it's gonna be on NBC Sports Network.' FOX could say, 'you want the World Series? I think we'll put it on FX,'" said Concha.
So what will the ruling be? Judge Napolitano says his "gut feeling" is that Aereo will lose.
Watch the discussion above from America's Newsroom.