The battle is far from over but Aereo got some very good news today, it’s first real progress since making the journey to deliver over the air television to consumers. In fact this court win could mean that Aereo is finally ready for the masses. The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal coming from the major television networks against internet TV company Aereo by a 2-1 vote, officially deciding that Aereo's transmission system does not infringe on the broadcaster's copyrights. Aereo finally officially hears the answer they were looking for.
Aereo captures digital transmissions from local broadcasters over the air, then using tiny antennas charges a fee for consumers to get the signal into their home, where they can stream it to various devices such as laptops and tablets like Apple’s iPad. The combo antenna and DVR service allows watching over 20 networks such as ABC, PBS, Fox, NBC, CBS and others. What saves Aereo is that it actually uses a separate antenna for each individual subscriber. So really the consumer is kind of just renting the transmission path, as opposed to Aereo capturing local content and redistributing it. Broadcast stations argued in court that Aereo does not have the proper licensing in place to do this. The court sided with Aereo, saying that customers are in fact streaming unique streams to themselves:
It is beyond dispute that the transmission of a broadcast TV program received by an individual’s rooftop antenna to the TV in his living room is private, because only that individual can receive the transmission from that antenna, ensuring that the potential audience of that transmission is only one person. Plaintiffs have presented no reason why the result should be any different when that rooftop antenna is rented from Aereo and its signals transmitted over the internet: it remains the case that only one person can receive that antenna’s transmissions.
Judge Christopher Droney, Second Circuit Court of Appeals
This ruling is important for two reasons. Traditional broadcast is constantly fighting innovation and trying to keep walls up to prevent it, this ruling breaks down a major one. In addition, the Appeals Court seemed to really see both sides of this issue and made a very informed technical decision based on the current information. The networks and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are disappointed with the ruling, they say Aereo is simply stealing copyrighted material and retransmitting it without compensation. The court has ruled that this is not the case.
The fact that this is a huge win for Aereo cannot be understated. It allows the company to move away from litigation and focus on expansion. Aereo is getting harder and harder to stop or even slow down, and the company plans to focus on its big plans to expand into many new markets in the coming year. Looks like they are finally on their way.