Goodman Derrick

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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