Right about now, we imagine Aereo is doing a happy dance and singing a little “na na na na na naaaa!’ in the general direction of the major TV networks. See, broadcasters were ticked off that Aereo’s customers could stream their shows from the Internet using the Aereo system, and claimed that the company infringed on their copyrights. But the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the networks’ plea to shut down Aereo.
For those unfamiliar with Aereo, it’s a streaming service that allows customers to rent out their own unique antenna which then allows users to watch broadcasters’ shows at their leisure, acting sort of as a DVR device. Basically, Aereo just provides the antenna that pulls the broadcast from the air, much like traditional TV antennae, as well as the cloud storage to keep those shows users want to watch.
As noted by The Verge, this made the networks grumpy, as they claimed Aereo was skirting the re-transmission fees other carriers — cable companies and satellite services — have to pay.
The broadcasters were miffed that Aereo was raking in $12 a month from each user, with a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters saying that “they’re charging a fee for content they do not own.”
But the court voted 2-1 that Aereo doesn’t need a license to operate like the others, because customers are streaming their own individual copies just to themselves.
As worded by one of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals judges:
It is beyond dispute that the transmission of a broadcast TV program received by an individual’s rooftop antenna to the TV in his living room is private, because only that individual can receive the transmission from that antenna, ensuring that the potential audience of that transmission is only one person. Plaintiffs have presented no reason why the result should be any different when that rooftop antenna is rented from Aereo and its signals transmitted over the internet: it remains the case that only one person can receive that antenna’s transmissions.
They’ll now have to appeal the decision, as it appears broadcasters are ready to do.
“As the courts continue to consider this case and others like it, we are confident that the rights of content owners will be recognized and that we will prevail,” a CBS spokesperson told The Verge.
Aereo is of course, all about this development, dubbing it a win for consumers who want more options for TV watching in an increasingly digital world.
“Today’s ruling sends a powerful message that consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful in this country and that the promise and commitment made by the broadcasters to program in the public interest in exchange for the public’s spectrum remains an important part of our American fabric,” said Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia. “We may be a small start-up, but we’ve always believed in standing up and fighting for our consumers.”