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Supreme Court delivers Aereo's over-the-air TV streaming service a death blow

Brad Chacos | June 26, 2014
The U.S. Supreme Court just delivered a death blow against Aereo, the streaming TV service that let you watch live-broadcast television on PC, phone, or tablet for $8 per month.

The U.S. Supreme Court just delivered a death blow against Aereo, the streaming TV service that let you watch live-broadcast television on PC, phone, or tablet for $8 per month.

But Aereo didn't ask the permission of NBC, ABC, or any of the broadcasters to do so. Instead, the company's data centers are stuffed with rows upon rows of dime-sized antennas. Aereo basically assigned a couple of them to each individual subscriber, then streamed or recorded the feed from those specific antennas at the customer's command. In doing so, Aereo maintained that it was providing the same basic service as a VCR, which is totally legal.

Networks and content providers argued that technical trickery aside, Aereo's core service is tantamount to unauthorized — and illegal, according to the Copyright Act — public broadcasts. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed with the networks in a 6-3 ruling.

"Insofar as there are differences, those differences concern not the nature of the service that Aereo provides so much as the technological manner in which it provides the service," the ruling reads. "We conclude that those differences are not adequate to place Aereo's activities outside the scope of the [Copyright] Act."

In other words, Aereo's current business is illegal. The letter of the law now views Aereo's streaming service as analogous to a cable company, and the company will have to pony up rebroadcast fees if it wants to continue operating. Don't hold your breath about that, though.

"If it's a total straight-up loss, then it's dead," Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told the Verge in April. "We're done."

So much for streaming NFL games to your mobile devices. With Aereo's death, live sports are once again a gaping hole in a cord-cutter's available entertainment options.

 

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