In a recent article by Bloomberg Law: SCOTUSblog, the Supreme Court of the United States blog, copyright laws and how they block cheap internet TV is discussed. If you think you are paying too much for your current cable service, you might want to stop reading this. Recently the Supreme Court put an end to a startup company that delivered network television for a cheap price. One might ask, why would the Supreme Court put an end to a service that could potentially save many people a lot of money on their cable TV bill. Well, it seems to be a copyright case.
When someone makes a TV show, you can get a copyright. Federal law provides that no one can “publicly perform” that work unless the person who created the content is paid. This provision happens to be extremely broad and it applies if the show is transmitted by means of any “device or process” and even if the audience receives it “in separate places” and “at separate times.” Aereo, the start up that was taken down, service required the user to pay a fee. In exchange, they send the user network TV through the internet. The fee is small for the user because the Aereo’s costs are low. This is because they don’t pay the copyright owners. Aereo has thousands of little antennas that can tune into a particular channel requested by a particular subscriber. The company then selects and saves the users program in a separate file and then sends it over the internet. This service in a nutshell, caused the cable companies to lose their minds. These companies spend millions of dollars developing their programs and then distributing them. If companies like Aereo could do it for free, then the whole industry would then fall apart.
Therefore, the other day the Supreme Court deemed Aereo illegal. One the other hand, Aereo argued that ruling their service illegal would create “serious legal doubts” about other technologies, especially cloud computing. At the end of the day, you can’t quite yet cancel your cable subscription. The ruling by the Supreme Court allows little to no room for clever startups like Aereo to distribute TV programs at a low cost. It will be interesting to see what kinds of other startups transpire and legally how they will try to provide their users with lower cost services.