Supreme Court to Weigh In on Aereo Controversy

Broadcasters trying to win a fight against the controversial TV streaming service Aereo have won an appeal, which will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a report from Bloomberg. The court’s justices have agreed to weigh in on the dispute between Aereo, which allows users to stream live television programming via an antenna and the Internet. The broadcasters include Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE:DIS) ABC, Comcast Corp.’s (NASDAQ:CMCSA) NBC, 21st Century Fox (NASDAQ:FOX), and CBS Corp. (NYSE:CBS)

Aereo provides live TV to its users without paying retransmission fees to broadcasters the way cable and satellite providers do. The broadcasters contend that Aereo is breaking copyright law by giving a “public performance” of their copyrighted material.

Aereo’s own legal team is embracing a loophole, saying that because each Aereo user uses a different antennae, each user’s version of the programming is unique. Aereo claims this means it’s not making a public transmission of the programs.

“There is no dispute that Aereo has developed a business model around the massive, for-profit exploitation of the copyrighted works of others,” the broadcasters said in their complaint, pointing out that should Aereo gain a victory in court, it will change the entire pay-TV system that broadcasters and pay-TV providers have been operating under for decades.

Broadcasters are depending more heavily on retransmission fees as their ad dollars dwindle. Those fees have led to massive public feuds between broadcasters and pay-TV operators, which are growing tired of paying the ever-growing fees.

Bloomberg spoke to people familiar with the matter who said that pay-TV operators including Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH), Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC), and Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR) will all switch to an Aereo-like method of providing live broadcast television should Aereo win.

According to the news service, both CBS and Fox have threatened to become cable networks if the Aereo matter isn’t resolved in their favor.

In April, Aereo saw a win in court that allowed it to continue offering its service in New York. Now the streaming service is hoping the Supreme Court’s justices will also rule in its favor.

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