back to article US Supremes just blew Aereo out of the water

The US Supreme Court has ruled against TV-streaming biz Aereo in its copyright case with US broadcasters. The 6-3 opinion (PDF) upholds a lower court ruling that found the company in violation of US copyright law. Aereo essentially has data centers in ten US cities, each fitted with miniature antennas and hardware that pick …

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  1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Unhappy

    bad news

    (no text here)

    1. Beachrider

      STOP in the name of love...

      .... Before you break my heart!

      (Few under 50 will get that)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: STOP in the name of love...

        Hey upvote at 49.....

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: STOP in the name of love...

        " .... Before you break my heart!

        (Few under 50 will get that)"

        There was a time that El Reg used to refer to the US Supreme Court simply as "The Supremes"

        Bring it back, I say!

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: STOP in the name of love...

        STOP in the name of love...

        .... Before you break my heart!

        (Few under 50 will get that)

        Damn it, now I can't get Diana Ross out of my head… and I'm only 30! (Still, it was Ray Ellington before…so I guess that's an improvement. I blame Spike Milligan.)

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Cue the Chinese manufacturers...

      An Internet-enabled remote TV tuner. (Sony made similar [analog] gadgets years ago.)

      One would need a relative or friend with easier access to TV signals (antenna or Cable TV), and a fat-pipe, unlimited Internet connection.

      A $100 price class little black box with an AC power cord, an F-connector for the external antenna (not included) or Cable TV feed (ATSC/QAM tuner), maybe another F-connector for pass-thru, and an Ethernet port (and perhaps built-in wifi) for connecting to the Internet.

      The scheme also requires some sort of server-service to help find the box on the Internet; so there might be a nominal fee per year (this is a weakness as it provides an opening to legal countermeasures). If this can be generalized into a much larger pool, then it would be safer.

      Former Aereo customer fires up his Remote TV Tuner 'App', and watches TV.

      Problem solved. Better. Cheaper. Crowd-sourced (you need a friend or relative).

      1. Chronic The Weedhog

        Re: Cue the Chinese manufacturers...

        That's not a bad idea, but considering that all you would need technically is a way to reach a listening port to authenticate against in order to access the stream, there would be no need for an external 'server-service' (as you referred to it).

        Example: Several of the more robust off-the-shelf SOHO routers support Dynamic DNS services, such as DynDNS or No-IP. But, even without a router with built-in-support for dynamic DNS, you can still use these services. Just about every one of those services offers clients for Windows, and most also offer clients for Linux & OSX as well.

        Essentially, you would only need a working dns-mask (ex: aereo-001.no-ip.us ), and 1 port forwarding rule (possibly 2 ports, or a range, depending on requirements) to securely authenticate against a device like this that is hosted on your home network.

        If the device utilizes a DVR/PVR function, then it would require local storage. But if you look at DLNA server-suites, such as 'Serviio', you'll find that a large number of the more rebust solutions in this class tend to offer 're-encoding' which basically allows the source to stream at multiple resolutions... sort of like picking 480p mode on Youtube, as opposed to using whatever auto-resolution automatically loads with the video in question.

        But yeah, given a proper re-working, this would have made for a pretty cool personal media access device.

        ** On a side note though: I agree with the dissenting Justices on this case, but for a particularly different reason. If Aereo was simply intercepting 'over-the-air' broadcasts, then what right do the broadcasters have to now come along and say "Hey! You have to pay us!" for what is otherwise free. I've got news for these broadcasters... they've already been paid by their advertisers, sponsors and any applicable grants. No one, regardless of whether it is an individual or a company, is liable for fees to accessing what is streamed freely over broadcast-airwaves. If the broadcasters don't agree with that, then quit broadcasting and secure their damned streams! Of course, the fallout from taking away what has essentially been a free service since the dawn of Television would likely be more than any of these broadcasters are able to endure... and that may happen anyway, just because of this US-SC decision. Unlike the era during which television came about, prior to the availability of services like Cable TV, Satellite, services like NetFlix, Hulu, and Crackle, or software like XBMC, consumers basically had the choice of 'either watch what the *big 3* are broadcasting, or nothing'. Now, consumers have a freedom of choice that allows them to basically drive traditional broadcasters into extinction. Most of the people that actually watch broadcast 'OTA' content today are either located in rural settings with no other options, are too broke to afford better, or simply just don't care that much about TV.

        1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Cue the Chinese manufacturers...

          "an external 'server-service' (as you referred to it). ...Dynamic DNS services, such as DynDNS..."

          Bingo. That ('DynDNS') was the word I was searching for with my clumsy 'server-service' (sorry). Same basic concept as any web-enabled security camera. Just a system to find your gadget on the ever changing internet.

          "If the device utilizes a DVR/PVR function, then it would require local storage."

          Not necessarily. The cheaper (and admittedly worse) solution would be to stream to storage at the client end. Leave your PC on while you're out.

          You've reminded me that dual-tuners might be an optional extra.

          A better approach to storage is an SD card slot and or USB port where the buyer slots in whatever storage that they can afford. Keeps the price point at ~$100 price class - not including the storage.

          This concept (if it's original) is hereby placed into the public domain.

          Cheers.

        2. admiraljkb

          OTA broadcasts

          OTA content is paid for by advertising. As such, those advertisers are only paying for ONE market, so rebroadcasting into "foreign" markets a couple of states over I could see being an issue. Paying to rebroadcast a signal into the local market it was intended for is asinine. Normally the broadcasters should be PAYING the cable companies and Aereo to get their advertising funded broadcasts to MORE people so they get more ratings for more revenue. But Congress made it such that the broadcasters get paid if someone rebroadcasts into the local market, which turns free enterprise on its head...

          As it was for me, the prospect of renting an HD antenna to watch OTA broadcasts was appealing and I did that.Since the introduction of digital TV in the US, its actually difficult to get a reliable signal in areas with a lot of buildings without having to adjust the antenna everytime you turn around...

    3. Tom 13

      Re: bad news

      Yes, but notice how they left out one of the most helpful bits:

      BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and KENNEDY, GINSBURG, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN,JJ., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined.

      Breyer [Clinton, Democrat]

      Roberts [Bush Jr, Republican]

      Kennedy [Reagan (88), Republican]

      Ginsburg [Clinton, Democrat]

      Sotomayor [The Big 0, Democrat]

      Kagan [The Big 0, Democrat]

      Scalia [Reagan (86), Republican]

      Thomas [Bush Sr., Republican]

      Alito [Bush Jr., Republican]

      In 86 when Reagan appointed Scalia, Conservatives still held sway in the Reagan White House. By 88 the RINOs had mostly taken over and sought a stealth candidate with little paper trail for Democrats to attack. Roberts? Well, after the 0bamacare ruling, we've all pretty much decided the NSA turned over incriminating photos to The Big 0. But there's no getting around the fact that every Democrat appointed justice voted to put the screws to the little guys.

      1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

        Re: bad news

        Scalia probably still thinks televisions come with a dial to find the channel.

      2. Hollerith 1

        Re: bad news - Democrats screw the little guy??

        I can't help but notice that the Supremes tend to support the Big Guy, especially when that Guy is a corporation (who are now, of course 'persons'). I searchand find very little evidence that the actual decisions made by them do anythign but support the Big Money interests.

        I am not an American, just a bemused outside observer.

    4. karlp

      Re: bad news

      This topic greatly interests me, if only for the minutia involved here. I can certainly see why its something that went to the SCOTUS. Personally, I have yet to make up my mind one way or another about it at the moment.

      Let me ask a question, the question I am rolling around in my head.

      What is a CATV system, as it was defined in the cited ruling, back in 1976?

      From the replies here, people are talking about single vs multiple antennas, or even cable companies modifying the commercials or other content.

      But is that really what it was, originally? I am assuming (yeah, I know) that at the time, the cable companies were not changing the signal, or otherwise modifying the broadcast in any way. I am also going to assume that, originally, in 1976, the number of antennas in use wouldn't have materially changed the outcome of the case.

      Assuming (again....) that the above is true, then we should look at the Aereo case in a different light.

      Maybe the case had much less (if anything) to do about the fact there was a DVR or antenna for each person, and more to do with the simple act of a company making profit solely through facilitating the movement of another's copyrighted content where the end user already had been granted rights to receive/view/consume that content. (IANAL, that may not be the technically correct way to word it, but I think it conveys the idea well enough for a forum post).

      Now, the weird part is by that definition, there would seem to be all sorts of other systems and technologies that do just that, every day, and in a fully legal manner.

      So if the issue really is one of a company making profit solely through facilitating the movement of another's copyrighted VIDEO content where the end user already had been granted rights to receive/view/consume that content, then that would seem to be an odd statement in context to many other observable parts of our society.

      Maybe Aereo's mistake was in trying to prove that their system is legal / and or exploits an acceptable loophole as opposed to challenging the original 1976 decision which really doesn't make a lot of logical sense in the context of our greater society and common practices of information transfer*.

      Karl P

      *Under my wording above, I don't see how the original, 1976, CATV companies, or the Aereo of today would be significantly different than that of a trucking company, moving a case of pamphlets.

      To be excruciatingly clear, while I understand this is how the law is written, I don't understand why these two things are different:

      1. Let's say there is a supermarket, which is setting out boxes of pamphlets all over town for the free and indiscriminate use of the local populace (target market, so to speak) to educate themselves about the relative merits of Spinach vs Cabbage.

      Now lets say that I, Joe Everyman, wants one of those pamphlets, and live in the area of the business and operations - the stated target market - of said supermarket.

      I, Joe, do not feel like going to pick up the pamphlet myself, so instead I decide to call a local courier, and ask them to come up with a way to get that free pamphlet, and deliver it to me, while catering to my lazy tendencies. They offer to do it by me paying them to retrieve it, and receiving compensation for said action of only their time and expenses.

      Thinking there might be more lazy people around me, that courier could call and/or market to all in my neighborhood (again, still in the stated target market of said supermarket) offering to deliver a pamphlet, in exchange for composition of solely their time and expenses.

      Of course, at any time, if you, or any other individual do not feel quite so lazy, you are of course free to stop by any of the (many) points of pamphlet distribution and pick one up for yourself, free of any charges.

      2. Let's say there is a broadcast station operator, putting their signal out for indiscriminate free reception of the local populace (the power of their transmitter / FCC license allocation area).

      Now let's say that I, Joe Everyman, wants to receive that signal, and live in the intended local populace (transmitter power / FCC / etc).

      I, Joe, do not feel like installing an antenna, or more likely my landlord will not allow me, or my wife will not tolerate it. So I decide to call my local low voltage contractor, and ask them to come up with a way for me to receive said signal while abiding to my other restrictions and or desires.

      They get back to me and say they can make it happen by installing an antenna down the street, and putting a small cable in the ground for me satisfying my stated desires/needs, and in return only ask that I compensate them for their time and expense.

      Thinking this is a good idea, they also offer to drop a cable by the other people on the street/block/city, again, restricting themselves to working within the intended local populace and only asking for compensation of their time and expense.

      Of course, at any time, if you, or any other individual do not feel like working with this contractor, or do not have the same desires and/or needs, you are of course free to put up your own antenna and get a signal, free of any charges.

  2. Dan Paul

    But what if I choose to..

    do the same thing as Aereo and put my TV on the web? I still paid for my TV broadcast and putting it on the web is the same as inviting the neighborhood over to watch the game with me.

    Food for thought (and my IP).

    1. ThomH

      Re: But what if I choose to..

      From reading the judgment, the court was of the opinion that:

      (i) it had found cable television redistribution systems that used centralised aerials legal;

      (ii) Congress had then legislated the 1976 act that made them 'illegal' (i.e. ensured they had to pay to repipe content);

      (iii) the language used by the 1976 act also covers Aereo.

      Primarily it seemed to hinge on the idea that since 1976 the mere act of transmitting a performance from point A to point B is itself a performance, and the test for whether a performance is public hinges on how widely the work is being distributed and the relationship between the various people that receive it, not on the specifics of each specific connection.

      They may be individually recorded streams but they're all of the same work and the receivers don't know each other. So it's one work being performed to the public, and Aereo does not possess the rights to do so.

      So my understanding would be that if you put your own TV on the web for you to watch you'd be fine because you're not performing to the public. If you invite your neighbour over then you're not performing it at all.

      The full judgment is here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-461_l537.pdf ; the summary is just the first four pages — then the lead judgment and the dissent are quite a bit longer.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        FAIL

        @ThomH -- Re: But what if I choose to..

        In other words, the SCOTUS did again what they do best: Bend logic into a tightly-wadded pretzel to come to a predestined conclusion -- one that naturally favors Big BusinessTM über alles

        1. ThomH

          Re: @ThomH -- But what if I choose to..

          I wouldn't agree with that.

          The SCOTUS found that Aereo is covered by the same rules as any other cable operator. They took a step back and said "regardless of splitting technical hairs and the exact way that individual subscriber's money is spent, the service you provide is other people's copyrighted works delivered via a cable".

          They then concluded that therefore the rules that should apply are those that were made by the body the public specifically elects to make laws.

          So that's just (i) taking a common-sense approach; and (ii) deferring to democracy.

          The result that Aereo would have to license the content it streams is a direct, intended result of the laws that Congress has enacted. It's not the court bending over backwards for big business.

    2. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: But what if I choose to..

      What you are suggesting when you share your TV reception with your neighborhood would be defined as "rebroadcast", which is frowned upon.

      For example the National Football League famously broadcasts warnings about rebroadcasting during their games. Inviting your extended family over for thanksgiving and watching some football = fine. Pointing your extended family towards a server where they can all see the game you recorded on your DVR = bad.

      Tough for Aereo, but I tend to agree with this ruling.

    3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: But what if I choose to..

      you would actually have a stronger argument than Aereo did.

      You're not reselling a service. Were you to do that... then you'd be in trouble.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: But what if I choose to..

        Liability and damages in these cases don't depend on whether or not you are reselling a service, only that you are infringing on the value of the the copyright protected materials. The ability of a plaintiff to collect damages does, but not the ruling itself.

        A volunteer organization I participated in tried to make that argument for services we wished to provide at a convention. We were shut down cold by the lawyers.

    4. Oninoshiko

      Re: But what if I choose to..

      That's not what aereo did, aereo set up a seperate tv and streamed each one for each person watching.

  3. brooxta

    Minority Report

    So if an individual set up their own hardware and software to do the same thing for themselves would they be in trouble? If not then I think SCOTUS got this rather wrong.

    1. ThomH

      Re: Minority Report

      I don't think they would because that wouldn't be a performance to the public. Unless you gave the login to all your friends.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Minority Report

        So what if you bought your own individual antenna at Aereo?

        Alternately what if you rented the one on your roof or paid somebody else to install and service the HW - would that make you illegal?

      2. Tom 13

        Re: Minority Report

        Having read your unpopular post above, I think you are wrong on this reply. I don't like what you have written, but considering it carefully, I think you are correct. Therefore, because of the way the relevant act was rewritten, so long as the data is transmitted on private lines other than the presentation device itself, it counts as broadcast.

        Now where I do see a small opening is in challenging the Constitutionality of the re-written law, which it doesn't appear to me happened in this case. But let's face it: a single person is far less likely to be able to afford the lawyers for that case than a corporation is.

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Minority Report

      "...if an individual..."

      This may vary with jurisdiction, but I can make wine or beer in my house for my personal consumption and perhaps to share with friends.

      But if I set-up a huge factory to make wine, then I might need a few brewing permits and such like.

      Individuals .NE. companies.

  4. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

    IF Aereo were rebroadcasting "closed" content such as ESPN or other cable/satellite-only content, then I would agree that they were violating copyright. Likewise, if they were adding to or subtracting from the content in any way, that would infringe the copyright. However, if neither of those conditions took place, then I agree with Aereo's assertion that they were merely a cloud-based DVR service for freely available OTA signals.

    My cable company pays the broadcast networks to retransmit their signals. However, included in that price is a space allowance for cable-company-generated commercial slots. Out of boredom one evening, I put a broadcast TV and a cable-connected TV side by side on the same channel and watched for a few hours. Everything was identical except for four 30-second commercial slots where the broadcast TV showed an ad for some local business but the cable TV showed an ad for some different service offering from the cable company. Because they have that ability, I agree that they should pay to retransmit OTA broadcast stations - they are adding their own content to the signal. If Aereo were to do that then they, too, should have to pay. If they did not do that, they should be able to stream the content using their stated model.

    I think the Supremes missed a great opportunity to clearly define emerging and evolving tech. However, given the average age and technological knowledge of the Court, I think this decision would have come down the same way even without all the lobbying from ABC, FOX, et.al.

    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

      IF Aereo were rebroadcasting "closed" content such as ESPN or other cable/satellite-only content, then I would agree that they were violating copyright.

      You don't seem to understand - they ARE violating copyright simply because the supremes have decided that they are, and that court is the definitive arbiter of whether they are or are not. That's a simple matter of fact - if you choose not to agree with that simple truth you are a fool.

      I've no strong views on this and couldn't care less either way, but I really don't see how you can place your own uniformed, amateurish interpretations of legislation above what is now established case law. The people qualified to judge have done so. Get over it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

        "I've no strong views on this and couldn't care less either way, but I really don't see how you can place your own uniformed, amateurish interpretations of legislation above what is now established case law. The people qualified to judge have done so. Get over it."

        Down voted because you're being a prick.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

            Of course they matter.

            This is a discussion forum attached to a news site.

            If people didn't post what they "think" it wouldn't be here.

            The US isn't the only place in the world.

            Other places in the world may end up having a service like this one.

            And discussion of any ramifications is obviously fine.

            1. the spectacularly refined chap

              Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

              Of course they matter.

              This is a discussion forum attached to a news site.

              If people didn't post what they "think" it wouldn't be here.

              That's fine when it is restricted to matters of opinion. I've no problem at all with people stating "I think this went the wrong way" or "I predict unintended consequences" but it becomes problematic when opinion and fact are confused, for example as the OP stated "I would agree that they were violating copyright". Really, it doesn't matter one jot what you think: if your thoughts are not in alignment with those of the courts then it is you that is in error: that is what has been determined here. If there is an established, incontrovertible fact then that is not open to debate or opinion simply because you find it unpalatable.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                Holmes

                Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

                Really, it doesn't matter one jot what you think: if your thoughts are not in alignment with those of the courts then it is you that is in error: that is what has been determined here.

                With that kind of mindset, one wonders why courts are even needed. You can have a presidential cretin disbursing unassailable wisdom by decree.

                Still it's good to know that one is permanently "in error" about patent law, copyright law, spying on the populace, the war on terror, indefinite detention, bailouts, bailins, disbursements to cronies, extrajudicial but perfectly legal killings, etc...

                1. CliveM

                  Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

                  With that kind of mindset, one wonders why courts are even needed. You can have a presidential cretin disbursing unassailable wisdom by decree.

                  Still it's good to know that one is permanently "in error" about patent law, copyright law, spying on the populace, the war on terror, indefinite detention, bailouts, bailins, disbursements to cronies, extrajudicial but perfectly legal killings, etc...

                  If there is a legal dispute the courts are the people charged with sorting it out. If the law needs to be interpreted it is the courts that decide how it is to be interpreted. If a case gets as far as the supreme court that interpretation becomes definitive. There is no scope for speculation after that point - the issue is settled.

                  Bringing in straw man irrelevances does not alter that, indeed the counter position is if anything more contemptible than any of the above. We have a panel of judges who have listened to the entirety of the arguments and reviewed the documents and other evidence presented. They have the training, experience and authority to reach a decision. They have done so.

                  Destroy All Monsters doesn't like the outcome so we set all that aside and substitute his opinion in its place. We no longer have a legal system, we have a dictatorship.

                  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                    Holmes

                    Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

                    Bringing in straw man irrelevances does not alter that, indeed the counter position is if anything more contemptible than any of the above

                    Utter bullshit and you are a F.F. flying frankly statist symbols of the most evil sort.

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

            It isn't a matter of opinion any more.

            The parting shot of fascism.

            "Whatever you think of the ruling, it's now locked down! FOREVER!"

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

              "...it's now locked down! FOREVER!"

              Not.

              The next SCOTUS judgment can change an earlier one.

              Also, there's even (recently) a new web-based service that is monitoring the published SCOTUS decisions for unannounced changes to the wording.

              Forever = until the next time.

          3. Tom 13

            Re: It isn't a matter of opinion any more.

            Downvoted because too many people like you have become too willing to roll over for anybody claiming authority. The authority of SCOTUS if it is truly binding on society must come from society. When SCOTUS renders too many decisions which look at best to be too much like the spin of a roulette wheel, society still has the right to say SCOTUS was wrong and has abused the power with which it was entrusted.

      2. CmdrX3

        Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

        "The people qualified to judge have done so. Get over it."

        Really, are you having a laugh? These are the same people who decided that yes, corporations were indeed people and then in an equally (if not more so) monumentally stupid decision, decided it would be a good idea to remove the limits on individual campaign contributions to politicians. Yup!!! They are in fact the very same imbeciles who last year struck down section 4 of the voting rights act. Quite frankly, the current members of the US Supreme Court has shown themselves to be completely incapable of making qualified judgements. I wouldn't trust them to be judges in a talent contest, never mind a courtroom.

      3. gujiguju

        Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

        An interesting side-benefit of the internet is that those that are so certain of their superiority can reveal themselves to be the ultimate doofuses...

        Tell everyone how Dred Scott "established case law" still stands, made by those "qualified to judge" back in 1857...

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott_v._Sanford

        This case can be overturned at any time when more clear-thinking occupants reside at the Supreme Court...and it will. This case is akin to SCOTUS banning the Sony Betamax VCR in 1985.

        Aereo is essentially a cloud-based Betamax and since over-the-air TV programming is free to all in the US (and supported by cost-free public spectrum to the TV networks making massive profits), this is the most stupid, f-cking SCOTUS opinion I've seen in a long time. (Maybe just behind Dred Scott and Citizens United.)

        Note that only one Supreme Court Justice (Kagan) uses email. There you have it.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      @ Ugotta B. Kiddingme -- Re: Sad? probably. Surprising? no.

      I think the Supremes missed a great opportunity to clearly define emerging and evolving tech.

      To quote your own handle: You gotta be kiddding me! These guys? This court?!? Defining emerging and evolving anything, especially tech??!!?? Shirley, you jest!

    3. Tom 13

      Re: IF Aereo were rebroadcasting "closed" content such as ESPN

      Copyright is copyright, and public broadcast is a LIMITED license. The limit is that you the consumer receive it directly from the copyright owner or their authorized reseller. Aereo is neither the consumer nor an authorized agent. And apparently the rewritten cable laws eliminated what was once a safe-haven.

  5. Blain Hamon
    Boffin

    I was rooting for Aereo and am saddened by this decision, but the distinction they made appears to be public vs private.

    If you invite the neighborhood over to watch the game with you, but it's people you know (since they're neighbors) then it's private. If you instead allow complete strangers to watch, or are charging for the show, then it's public. Same reason movie theaters have to license a movie even if they have it on DVD.

    By this logic, setting up your own Aereo yourself, which basically you do anyways when setting up a home theatre, isn't a problem. You own it, you're not charging yourself for it, it's private.

    (Edit: Looks like others have beat me to it.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh those judges...

    Gotta love it when some judges on Surpreme Court decides a verdict needs to go a certain way, and then tie themselves in knots with tortured logic to try to justify it. Like how they get rid of that pesky requirement a transmission must be to the 'public' by blowing hot air about how Congress would have meant it to apply in this case despite the actual wording of the Act, and that even though it's a private transmission to a single person using a dedicated pathway through dedicated equipment, it's... kinda like transmitting to the public cos... yeah... they're doing the same thing for other customers too...

  7. User McUser
    FAIL

    Bad Decision

    "Aereo does not 'perform' for the sole and simple reason that it does not make the choice of content," the dissenting trio wrote.

    The dissenting judges clearly have a better understanding of this case. Aereo just took the DVR out of your house and put it in a datacenter and then replaced the HDMI cable that connected it to your TV with the Internet. If DVRs are legal (and they are), then Aereo's business model is legal.

    What scares me most though is that for once I agree with Justice Scalia!!

    1. ratfox Silver badge

      Re: Bad Decision

      Well yes, DVRs are legal; but offering to everybody to use your DVR is not. Just like you can watch a DVD you own in your home, but you are not allowed to project it on a huge screen in public. That's what the "not for public performance" warning means. Or you can watch a football match at home, but not record it and put it on YouTube.

      I'm actually surprised this had to go all the way to the Supreme Court. It feels perfectly logical to me.

      1. Justicesays
        WTF?

        Re: Bad Decision

        Not sure I follow your chain of logic here.

        If I sell you a DVR, and you use it, thats fine.

        If I rent you a DVR, and you use it, thats fine.

        If I rent you a DVR at my house, *and you use it via a long cable* , that is also fine.

        If I also rent out DVRs to a couple of other people in just the same way, I am now a criminal...

        Also totally legal to rent multiple people DVRs at their houses as well of course, even though this does allow multiple people the ability to watch copyright material almost as soon as it is transmitted...

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Bad Decision

          This is the problem with writing laws based on examples, and even then, this is a law from 1973 or something, so obviously completely outdated.

          Positive example: home DVRs should be legal.

          Negative example: unlicensed Internet-based content distributors, like a Netflix without agreement from the creators, should not be legal.

          Now think of a definition for a law that makes DVRs legal and unlicensed Netflix illegal.

          OK, done that? Now let's see how your definition stands up to:

          1) a DVR that you rent from a company other than the content provider.

          2) a DVD that someone made of a show that you have legal access to but you asked them to make because it was broadcast when you were not at home, and that you will play and then destroy.

          3) A DVR that is hosted outside of your house but that you program, either by phoning up someone in the place where it is or by commands over the Internet. You have legal access to the content (i.e., not a subscription channel, or you pay the subscription.) The content is then sent you by

          a) streaming and

          b) post.

          4) A virtual DVR on a server that is not a physical box, but a program that does the same thing as in 3).

          5) A virtual DVR that pre-caches everything broadcast that you have legal access to as it is broadcast and if you tell it before broadcast you can then stream it back later.

          6) As in 5) but you request it *after* the broadcast, not before.

          How many does your definition thing should be illegal? And how many do you think should be illegal? The last one in particular sounds an awful lot like unlicensed Netflix to me.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Bad Decision

            There was a service (also shutdown IIRC) which offered a Netflix-like service from a set of DVD jukeboxes. Since they only streamed a single physical DVD to a signal customer at once, they claimed that they were just a DVD rental store where you happened to physically play the DVD remotely.

        2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Bad Decision

          "...I am now a criminal..."

          Is copyright violation 'criminal' (prison) or a 'civil' matter ($)?

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Bad Decision

        Or you can watch a football match at home, but not record it and put it on YouTube.

        Nothing like this is even being discussed here.

      3. User McUser

        Re: Bad Decision

        but offering to everybody to use your DVR is not.

        Maybe, but that isn't what Aereo did. They rented individual DVRs with an antenna to individual users who individually used them to record Over The Air broadcasts. Each person got their own data partition separate from everyone else and each choose the specific shows they wanted their DVR to record.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's only TV

    This is just TV. Not cancer research (where professional journals have a stranglehold on the dissemination of critical analyses). Actually the court may have done many people a favor by foreclosing one more means of allowing their brains to rot from overexposure to programming that is by and large just this side of latrine culture (even Caligula would have recognized the civilization-destroying nature of reality television). The bigger issue is more fundamental: why is such lopsided power being put in the hands of *corporate* owners of intellectual property? The intent of the IP provisions in the US Constitution was to advance arts and science by giving time limited protection to the work of artists and inventors. As it stands today giant IP owners have managed to stretch out the time limitation to over a century in the case of copyright, and create fortress walls against progress in the form of patent portfolios whose contents number in the thousands -- a number even the prolific Ben Franklin never came close to achieving. Please, can someone explain just what is it about Mickey Mouse and the shape of an iPhone that warrants warping IP law beyond recognition just so their immortal owners can restrict use of them until after the Apocalypse?

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: It’s only TV

      Anonymous Coward, Benjamin Franklin had zero patents. If you’ve read his Autobiography, you’ll know why.

  9. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Used to be a remedy for home sickness

    My job takes me away from home half the time (One month at home, one at customer site in some random country or city) and I use the Aereo service to watch local news and locally-produced shows to ease the stress of being away from home. I suppose now I have to buy a TV tuner card and try and get some software in place.

    1. Hugh McIntyre

      Re: Used to be a remedy for home sickness

      There are already products you can buy to watch your TV away from home, for example a Slingbox. Or some satellite/cable companies (e.g. DirecTV) have an app that you can use to watch your DVR away from home. So you may not need to roll your own solution. However both of these require that you already have TV reception at home, and avoiding this monthly cost was presumably kind of the point of Aereo.

      What the Supremes seem to have objected to was that Aereo has a profitable business collecting revenue based on people viewing the broadcasters' programs, but without any of this revenue going to the networks. This sucks for Aereo, but presumably they could get legal again by putting the per-user antenna in people's houses (ala SlingPlayer and an old-fashioned antenna on the roof) or paying some money to the broadcasters. And in the mean time, you may be able to use something like a SlingBox.

      Disclaimer: I have an old Slingbox in the garage which I used to use round the house, until the delays versus a real TV got too annoying. So I'm neither recommending or non-recommending this. If you need to watch TV away from home it may work though.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: Used to be a remedy for home sickness

        I don't have a DVR of any sort (Abandoned Cable/Satellite years ago) so neither solution works for me. Now to find some recording software, a decently supported tuner card and a DTV antenna. I just hope that I can get a signal in my apartment.

    2. Anonymous Blowhard
      Pint

      Re: Used to be a remedy for home sickness

      My job takes me away from home so I use beer to ease the stress of being away from home.

    3. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Used to be a remedy for home sickness

      > I suppose now I have to buy a TV tuner card and try and get some software in place.

      Depending on how annoying your ISP is, that could just me a matter of 100 bucks and perhaps 2 hours of work (I was tempted to write 1/2 h but obviously the "think of how much time you need then double that. That's half of what it'll take" rule prevails). Basically if you can connect to your home network from outside then Bob is your uncle. Otherwise you may have to set up an NoIP account or similar; I would suggest using a cheap small computer as the streaming server, not an expensive big noisy power-hungry thing. A Pi or a Sheeva plug; perhaps a cubieboard (cubietruck if you're feeling flush).

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: I was expecting this...

      In that case it would be best to make broadcasts simply illegal and force everyone onto cable and be done with it, right? Then you wouldn't need the discussion whether you may pay somebody else to set up an antenna on your behalf / rent the antenna / put an illegally long cable onto it etc...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I was expecting this...

        "...make broadcasts simply illegal..."

        Once upon a time, the local VHF Channel 8 TV signal carrying the all-important Star Trek show was quite low power and many people were frustrated. So I designed a Channel 8 Yagi antenna and welded up a half dozen for friends and coworkers. One of my coworkers was up on his roof installing the Yagi I built for him; his neighbour wandered over to ask what he was doing. My buddy explained himself; and the curious Neighbour asked, "Is that legal?"

        1. admiraljkb

          Re: I was expecting this...

          I had a similar "is that legal" situation this last week - Its frightening that I had my father in law ask me if putting up an antenna at all (even "rabbit ears") was legal. Apparently the general populace in the states now thinks that OTA is illegal and you have to buy cableTV.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: I was expecting this...

        Aereo was, indeed, attempting to skirt the 1976 changes that imposed fees on cable company redistribution of broadcast material. The plan was reasonably clever, fairly persuasive, and at least one judge found it lawful. Now the Supreme court has found that under that law Aereo, like the cable operators, is required to pay broadcasters for the benefits they bring to the broadcasters in the way of improved signal availability and added features.

        The proper correction is for consumers to interest their Senators and Representatives in correcting this and other obvious flaws in the copyright laws, by indicating to them that it will influence their vote in the next election. It almost certainly won't happen, though, as this is one of those cases where a great many people pay a small amount each (and so care little) for the large benefit of a few (who care much and are willing to lobby and litigate extensively to attain their goals).

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I was expecting this...

      If you think about it, Cable companies and Aereo are the same.

      Actually, no they're not. The fact that you think this (for very small values of "think") indicates how weak your powers of analytical reasoning are.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Business Model

    I'm not sure what their business model is (was?), but what if they became a cooperative? Would that allow them to provide equipment to their cooperative members and also operate it?

  12. MooJohn

    Judges are too old

    This just proves that most of the Supreme Court justices are too old to understand the technology behind what they're ruling on. Justice Breyer wrote "Aereo's system is, for all practical purposes, identical to a cable system..." when it has NOTHING in common. Aereo matched one viewer to one physical antenna, creating a "bridge" between the user and the source. If all antennas were in use, no more viewers.

    Cable TV simply doesn't work that way. When was the last time a cable viewer got a message that all antennas were in use? I think those who voted against Aereo went by the cable lobby's "executive summary" instead of looking at exactly how the technology worked. Sending a signal from one antenna to one user is NOT broadcasting!

    1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Judges are too old

      Indeed. I've been comparing Aereo's service to setting up an antenna and then plugging in a thousand mile extension cable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Judges are too old

        Crazy Operations Guy, meet the dB *.

        Say 3.9 dB/100ft * a thousand miles = hmmm... 205.92 dB per mile, times 1000 miles = 205,920 dB.

        Hmmm... I'm not sure that this is going to work.

        (* Acknowledge in advance that many crazy old 'operations guys' already know the dB very well.)

  13. corestore

    1. A very rare case where I agree with Scalia; this was a real tortuous stretch. SCOTUS essentially said, it doesn't matter what the law says and if you technically comply with it, if you LOOK like a cable company you ARE a cable company.

    2. The answer will be crowdsourcing, not centralising. We need an Uber for the airwaves. Something like sharemyslingbox.com (not a real URL, an illustration of the kind of concept).

    3. "There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back." - RAH

    1. P. Lee

      > Something like sharemyslingbox.com

      http://thepiratebay.se/ ;)

      (3) is the way of the world. With their large lobbying budgets it was always going to be just a matter of time before either there was a bad judgement like this, or the law was changed. The only way to compete these days is to make billions in an unrelated market and then move in on someone-else's turf. Innovation counts for nothing if you don't already have billions to back it. Doing it better/cheaper alone will always be beaten by predatory pricing. In my mind, this is reason enough to break up these large corporations, especially in non-critical industries such as entertainment.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      On the contrary ...

      "This strange doctrine" now is supported by both statute and Supreme Court decision. The remaining part of the quote - "Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back" - is morally correct but has been overridden by the legislature and the courts.

    3. admiraljkb

      I agree that Aereo is basically a cable company. I think the law itself need rewritten though. The law itself was to protect the local affiliates, although I'm not sure how exactly. Since they are advertiser based and OTA, the local cable company at most needs to carry them in the local market, but there should be NO money required to change hands. Thats what the advertisers are for. There are now 12 minutes of commercials per 30 minutes, so the local affiliates *should* be ok.

  14. BeachBum68

    Truly disappointing

    I also can't believe what a terrible decision this is.

    Aereo is not a cable company, they take an OTA broadcast and route the signal over the internet to your home. They're not a content provider, they are an alternative to an OTA antenna for people who cannot get a decent signal to their homes. This is yet another massively bad decision by the "Supreme" court. And while the argument can be made that it puts another nail in the broadcast networks' coffin, that's not relevant to the decision. This was a disruptive & innovative technology that's being stifled by the court for less than virtuous reasons. Cable companies are the spawn of satan here in the US. They exert far too much influence on our politicians and, it seems, our judicial system.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The television networks argued, successfully, that Aereo was taking broadcasts without paying and retransmitting to users for a charge."

    Before the digital age, all you needed was an antenna to receive the broadcasts, now you need a tuner box as well. You don't pay for ability to pick the signal up, so that argument should have been tossed. I'm sick of hearing that the broadcasters should be paid for their signal but yet they broadcast it out for free.

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Make content easier to consume

    Cheap*, reliable and everywhere....

    * Yes, we need to pay something.

  17. hoola Bronze badge

    No suprise

    Frankly it would have been a suprise if they had come back with any other judgement. The established money was always going to win this. It is the same as the stranglehold on copyright management. The big media companies are dinasours that stubbornly refuse to see that content consumption has changed.

    No one minds paying a fair price but the current entertainment market is completely skewed and those in power are only listening to the bleating of the big names. It is not as though the average artist is exacly benefitting from the current contracts and royalties payments. The few mega-stars or blockbusters are basically run as cash generating machines.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If 1000 people wanted to record the 9pm show on channel XYZ, did this service really use 1000 antennae to record the show 1000 times on 1000 different data store locations?

    If not, all the analogies to recording on your own DVR are not quite right. If yes, that's one hell of an inefficient design

    1. Daniel Hutty

      @AC "Inefficient Design"

      "... did this service really use 1000 antennae to record the show 1000 times on 1000 different data store locations? ... If yes, that's one hell of an inefficient design"

      Yes, but that's exactly what they did., on the grounds that the efficient way (1 antenna per show being recorded, record it once and distribute that 1 recording to many users) was obviously illegal but (they thought that) the 1-antenna-and-1-recording-per-user model would be legal as it's functionally equivalent to a hired, remotely-located DVR with a tech-support agreement in place.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @AC "Inefficient Design"

        "...that's exactly what they [pretended that they] did..."

        Fixed. Actually, they had a real antenna out back and a big amplified cable splitter under the raised floor. The paperclips were just legal fiction.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not a snowball chance in hell

    Aereo was delusional to think they could get away with this scam. Thankfully the courts got this decision correct. If you want it, you pay for it no matter what "it" is. If you don't want to pay for goods or services then you go without. There are no free lunches nor should there be.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Not a snowball chance in hell

      Your reading comprehension is on the par of a 80-year old with Alzheimer. And a brain cancer. Who got hit with a dictionary when 8 month old, partially caving his skull in.

      But if I remember correctly, Mr. O is on your side, so who am I to argue?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are recordings fungible ?

    If my neighbor and I both record the same program at 9pm on tuesday, does it matter which copy either of us watches ?

    It seems that this service allowed me to watch programs that I haven't recorded (but my neighbor has) which is where I would agree that it is a re-broadcast and indeed falls foul.

    If they were to make me press the record button for each program that I want to watch and only allow me to watch what I had previously recorded (irrespective that they only keep one copy for all of the people who recorded it) then that would be a PVR in the cloud and should be allowed.

    1. Daniel Hutty

      Re: Are recordings fungible ?

      The main issue here is that with Aero, you *wouldn't* be watching the "copy your neighbor recorded".

      With Aero, as with CableVision's "Remote Storage DVR" (which was ruled legal in 2008), each user has an individual copy - they don't "only keep one copy for all the people that recorded it" as you suggest. Yes I know that would be the sensible, efficient way to do it, but they don't, specifically because they thought that doing ot the "inefficient" way would make it legal.

      Simply put the reasoning is that since:

      * each user has their own antenna,

      * each user makes their own seperate recording, using their dedicated antenna, and only accesses the recording made by their personal antenna,

      then it is functionally equivalent to them having the antenna and recording device in their house, which is legal.

      By Aero's argument, what they have is a data-centre full of DVRs, each remotely controlled and remotely accessed by an individual customer - so they're not a cable company, they hire out DVRs housed in their datacentres.

      For a bit more on the legal background, I recommend this article from the Harvard Business Review blog network, which explains some of the previous rulings Aero's reasoning is based on. IANAL, and I found it refreshingly clear and free from "lawyerese".

      1. Bob Camp

        Re: Are recordings fungible ?

        The case is much simpler than that. Most of the things Aereo did were completely irrelevant and were a great waste of time and money. Aereo's antenna array was unnecessary, and the individual copies were also unnecessary. It was smoke and mirrors to try to distract the courts from the real issue at hand.

        It doesn't matter if each copy is unique. A copy doesn't have to be very much like the original for it to be considered a copy. If I reenact a Game of Thrones episode with my family line by line and post it online, I've violated copyright law. Even though I look nothing like Kit Harington. Surely the copies Aereo made where the same actors were used in each copy would be considered the same according to copyright law.

        Therefore, since Aereo is offering a service to retransmit somebody else's content, and they are offering it to more than one residence, they are EXACTLY LIKE a CATV provider.

        The only reason CableVision is allowed to use the cloud DVR service is that they've already paid the retransmission fees. Aereo never did. Once the fees have been paid, the content providers have no say in how or when the content is received or retransmitted unless it has been specifically called out in the licensing agreement.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: Are recordings fungible ?

          Unfortunately, there are already an infinite number of copies in each point of the aether being filled by the broadcast signal.

          EXACTLY LIKE a CATV provider.

          You can repeat it 1000 times, this won't make it so.

          1. karlp

            Re: Are recordings fungible ?

            Let's put this up where someone might see it....

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: Are recordings fungible ?

      "If my neighbor and I both record the same program at 9pm on tuesday, does it matter which copy either of us watches ?"

      Yes. And they are probably distinguishable and matchable to your equipment.

  21. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    The SCROTUMS got this ALL wrong

    Apparently they didn't understand the separate antenna and etc. for each and every customer and the oligarchy of big entertainment somehow managed to buy more influence.

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