US Supreme Court rules in Aereo TV copyright case

By Paul Herbert

US broadcasters have won an important battle in their efforts to prevent an unlicensed service from providing online real-time streaming of their broadcasts.

On 25 June 2014, the US Supreme Court delivered a pivotal judgment in American Broadcasting Companies v Aereo, tackling the question as to whether or not Aereo, a technology company based in New York, was in breach of the US Copyright Act 1976. The Copyright Act gives a copyright owner the exclusive right to ‘perform the copyrighted work publicly’. Although this is a US decision limited in its impact to the US, it will nevertheless be of great interest to providers of online streaming and video-on-demand services in the UK and elsewhere.

The core of the case involved Aereo using innovative technology to receive linear terrestrial broadcast signals via tiny antennas that are stored in a remote location and then assigning those antennas to Aereo’s subscribers for them to stream almost-live free-to-air television programmes directly to their computers, tablets and other mobile devices. Aereo did not obtain authorisation from the broadcasters and did not pay any retransmission fees…

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