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Supreme Court Briefs - ABC v Aereo

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July 7 2017

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Want a specific SCOTUS case covered? Your idea gets picked when you donate on Patreon: Mr. Beat's band: Mr. Beat on Twitter: In episode 14 of Supreme Court Briefs, a company trying to show broadcast television on phones and tablets gets sued by, you guessed it, broadcast companies. Check out cool primary sources here: Additional sources used: New York City March 14, 2012 A company called Oreo launches. Uh yeah, they provide the best cookies around, and...hold up...wait a mistake, I’m sorry. A company called Aereo (air-e-o) launches, allowing people to view live broadcast television on Internet-connected devices. For $8 to $12 a month, viewers could access the airwaves on their phone or tablet no matter where they were. Well a bunch of broadcasting companies didn’t like that so much. Two weeks before the launch, ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX had all sued Aereo, arguing that the company threatened their copyrighted material because the streaming of live broadcast television in this way counted as a “public performance,” which means they needed to get a special license. The four broadcasting companies argued that Aereo broke part of the interestingly named Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act, which said you have to negotiate with broadcasters before you carry their signals. ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX all basically said Aereo was stealing both their programming and customers. After the broadcasting companies failed to stop the launch of Aereo in federal court, they appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court agreed with the lower court, saying Aereo had the right to do this as their streams to subscribers were not “public performances,” so there wasn’t copyright infringement. This happened on April 1, 2013. By this time, Aereo was quickly growing and expanding across the country, getting awesome reviews from both the media and customers. But the broadcasting companies weren’t done yet...obviously. I’ve found corporations tend to have a lot of money to take others to court, for some strange reason. Anyway, the broadcasters appealed to the Supreme Court, and on January 10, 2014, the Court agreed to hear the case. This time around, the broadcasters had lots of allies, including the NFL, Major League Baseball, the Department of Justice, the United States Copyright Office, and some judge in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, who blocked Aereo in his district. Probably due to those allies, it was not looking good for Aereo. On June 25, 2014, the Court ruled in favor of the broadcasters, 6-3, and against Aereo. The Court explained Aereo was definitely breaking copyright law as it acted like a cable company that rebroadcasted copyrighted content. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the dissenting minority, saying the Court should not be making judgements on new technologies- it was the job of Congress. Before the Supreme Court decision, Aereo had about 80,000 subscribers. Well, three days after the decision, they all lost the service. Aereo filed for bankruptcy on November 21, 2014, and was later bought by TiVo for $1 million. American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc. kept the status quo in broadcasting. Many argue it limited innovation. Critics say it’s likely the consumers who got screwed over the most in this one.

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