The following story was updated after the Supreme Court ruled against Aereo in a 6-3 vote.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Aereo violates federal copyright law by retransmitting copyrighted programs without paying a fee, in a case that was watched closely by everyone from ABC to Google to the NFL.
The case involved internet start-up Aereo, which streams broadcast television – CBS, NBC, Fox, and the like – to consumers on their phones, tablets, and computers, but doesn’t pay those providers retransmission fees. Instead, the company charges a subscription of up to $12 a month for which subscribers receive a tiny antenna to stream and record broadcast TV.
If Aereo had won, cable providers might have argued they don’t have to pay networks for the rights to show their programming. That means the networks would have lost billions, forcing them to live off advertising revenue exclusively.
Before the ruling, Harvard Professor Susan Crawford said a loss by Aereo could raise numerous copyright questions about services somewhat similar to Aereo; services that store movies and music in the cloud, for example.
She says ultimately Congress may have to get involved, meaning a long fight in Washington with a “mosh pit of special interests” battling it out.
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