Aereo decision thoughts

The U. S. Supreme Court today ruled against Aereo in its fight with broadcasters over retransmission fees.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for a 6-3 majority, likened Aereo's service to a cable system, which is a public performance.

You may read the decision here. As I don't claim to be a legal scholar, my summary comes from Richard Wolf's USA Today article linked above. (Is Law & Order creator Dick Wolf doing freelance legal writing now?)

"Aereo is, for all practical purposes, identical to a cable system," Breyer said. "Both use their own equipment. Both receive broadcast television programs, many of which are copyrighted. Both enable subscribers to watch those programs virtually as they are being broadcast."          

I wonder how something can be a public performance if each person has their own antenna. If you have cable, one could argue each person has their own set-top box. In that case, I suppose the reasoning is that it all goes over the same wires.

I don't want to spend too much time pondering the individual arguments though. The decision has already been rendered and it could be a while before the Court takes up a case on this type of technology again.

Far more interesting to me is the potential opportunity this opens up for competitors. The reason Aereo lost was that the antennas that enabled you to sign in and watch TV on your computer, set top box or mobile device were stored outside the home. There's no reason (admittedly more expensive) competing options like Slingbox and TiVo can't say, "We hook up directly to your TV antenna and provide the same watch anywhere functionality legally."

This is a bit of a blow because Aereo was definitely the cheapest option, but I wouldn't be surprised to see one of its in-home competitors offer a deal in the coming days to fill the void.