The battle is far from over but Aereo got some good news today — its first real progress since making the journey to deliver OTA 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 heard the answer it was looking for.
Aereo captures digital transmissions from local broadcasters over the air using tiny antennas, then 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 such as Apple’s iPad. The combo antenna and DVR service allows customers to watch more than 20 networks, including ABC, PBS, FOX, NBC, CBS. 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, and this ruling breaks down a major one. In addition, the Appeals Court seemed to really see both sides of this issue, and made an 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.
In addition, an article in the Wall Street Journal report says that Aereo is having discussions with Dish and AT&T. Any such partnerships could help Aereo quickly expand its footprint. Aereo has already announced plans to expand soon to 22 new markets beyond New York City, where it is already available.
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 it is finally on its way.