Justices rule for broadcasters in fight with web startup

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a startup Internet company has to pay broadcasters when it takes television programs from the airwaves and allows subscribers to watch them on smartphones and other portable devices.

The justices said by a 6-3 vote that Aereo Inc. is violating the broadcasters’ copyrights by taking the signals for free. The ruling preserves the ability of the television networks to collect huge fees from cable and satellite systems that transmit their programming.

Aereo is available in New York, Boston and Atlanta among 11 metropolitan areas and uses thousands of dime-size antennas to capture television signals and transmit them to subscribers who pay as little as $8 a month for the service.

Some justices worried during arguments in April that a ruling for the broadcasters could also harm the burgeoning world of cloud computing, which gives users access to a vast online computer network that stores and processes information.

But Justice Stephen Breyer in his majority opinion that the court did not intend to call cloud computing into question.

Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS sued Aereo for copyright infringement, saying Aereo should pay for redistributing the programming the same way cable and satellite systems must or risk high-profile blackouts of channels that anger their subscribers.

Aereo’s service starts at $8 a month and is available in New York, Boston, Houston and Atlanta, among 11 metropolitan areas. Subscribers get about two dozen local over-the-air stations, plus the Bloomberg TV financial channel.

In each market, Aereo has a data center with thousands of dime-size antennas. When a subscriber wants to watch a show live or record it, the company temporarily assigns the customer an antenna and transmits the program over the Internet to the subscriber’s laptop, tablet, smartphone or even a big-screen TV with a Roku or Apple TV streaming device.

The antenna is only used by one subscriber at a time, and Aereo says that’s much like the situation at home, where a viewer uses a personal antenna to watch over-the-air broadcasts for free.

The broadcasters and professional sports leagues also feared that nothing in the case would limit Aereo to local service. Major League Baseball and the National Football League have lucrative contracts with the television networks and closely guard the airing of their games. Aereo’s model would pose a threat if, say, a consumer in New York could watch NFL games from anywhere through his Aereo subscription.

.

More in Local News

If vehicles crash and tumble, rescuers want to be ready

The Puyallup Extrication Team practiced with other fire departments on cars, SUVs and even buses.

Man arrested after stolen car crashes in Everett

The accident occurred in the 100 block of SE Everett Mall Way.

5-vehicle crash in Arlington kills 62-year-old woman

Medics had transported her to the hospital, where she later died.

2 men hospitalized after rollover collision on U.S. 2

Two men were taken to the hospital with minor injuries… Continue reading

Marysville police serve a warrant — across the street from HQ

A man who fled was taken into custody. Police were serving a warrant for alleged drug-related crimes.

Marysville man charged with stabbing wife who sought divorce

Nathan Bradford, 45, found divorce papers while going through the woman’s car.

Man on ferry accuses child of theft, allegedly pulls knife

The man was arrested, no one was hurt, and the ferry was delayed 30 minutes on its way to Mukilteo.

State is close but still not compliant in school-funding case

Lawmakers must act during the next legislative session to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Dems say GOP tax plan doesn’t add up for everyone

Rep. Suzan DelBene’s amendments to restore deductions, which the bill does away with, were rejected.

Most Read