WASHINGTON, D.C. (KCBS) — Aereo, a start-up company that allows subscribers to view live and time-shifted stream of over-the-air television on Internet connected devices is violating broadcaster copyrights, U.S. Supreme Court said Wednesday.

In a 6-3 decision, with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissenting, was the blow to the start-up that launched last year in New York and then expanded to 10 other cities. The company’s technology allows customers to watch over view over-the-air TV programming on smartphones, tablets or personal computers about $8 per month.

The Supreme Court said that Aereo was operating like a cable system. And cable systems, to adhere to copyright law, must pay for the programming they transmit.

“Earlier the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of cable television and Congress amended the copyright statue to overrule those decisions,” Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of UC Irvine School of Law, told KCBS.

“So the Supreme Court said therefore that Congress indicated the clear desire that when any service—cable or this new electronic service—is picking up broadcast signals and them giving them to others, those companies have to pay for them.”


Aereo had argued that it does not perform but merely supplies equipment that works like a home antenna and DVR. It is only the subscribers who “perform” when they use Aereo’s equipment to stream TV programs to themselves, it said.

Aereo likened its role to “a copy shop that provides its patrons with a library card.”

The justices did not agree and Chemerinsky said that most this ruling won’t be the last of such cases.

“The desire for people to get broadcasts on their cellphones, their tablets and their laptops is enormous and I think technology is going to come up with all sort of new ways. And each of those is going to have to be litigated ultimately to the Supreme Court.”

CBS said in a statement Wednesday morning that the network was “pleased with today’s decision which is great news for content creators and their audiences.


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