NEW YORK— Today’s Supreme Court debate may determine the fate of the two-year-old, $97 million start-up that challenged copyright law by carrying broadcast signals without securing rights for them. (Photo at right is the line outside of the Supreme Court this morning, tweeted by Adrianne Jeffries of The Verge.)
Broadcasters have asked the high court to reverse lower court rulings denying an injunction against Aereo. The larger question of copyright violation rests on whether the service is found to be a public or a private performance. Public performances are subject to copyright protection. Private performances are not.
Aereo claims its service provides a private performance to users who “rent” one of many dime-sized antennas in large arrays. Broadcast engineers say such an array would work as one large antenna, making Aereo’s service the same as any other pay TV provider, and thus subject to copyright law.
The high court is expected to go beyond the simple matter of the injunction and rule on the pubic-private performance issue, which effectively could end the legal dispute. The question presented before the court is stated as follows:
“Whether a company "publicly performs" a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet.”
TV Technology provides a timeline of Aereo’s roll-out and the legal maneuvers that followed.
Feb. 14: Aereo announces $20.5 million in funding from Barry Diller.
Diller, a former broadcast executive for USA Network and later, News Corp. is chairman of IAC, a $5.7 billion e-commerce empire.
Feb 17: Aereo files for patent on out-of-market TV streaming.
March 1: Broadcasters sue Aereo.
WNET, Fox, Univision, Tribune’s CW affiliate, WPIX, PBS and others file suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to stop Aereo.
March 14: Aereo beta launches in New York.
After a 90-day free trial, Aereo charges $12 a month for 20 channels, 40 hours of remote storage and access on up to five devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Toku, Apple TV and MacBook.
April 24: Diller defends Aereo in the Senate.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) drills Diller.
July 11: Federal courtdenies injunction.
Judge Alison Nathan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York rules that Aereo is materially similar to Cablevision’s remote digital video recorders, deemed legal in 2008 in Cartoon Network v. Cablevision, decided in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.Plaintiffs appeal.
Aug. 2:Aereo offers new pricing plan.
From free, to $1 a day to $80 a year. The service is still available only in New York.
Aug. 10:Fox sues Aereo mimic AereoKiller and BarryDriller in California court.
Coca-Cola billionaire Alki David resurrects streaming TV service FilmOn as an homage to Diller, who is not amused. He continues streaming through other URLs such as FilmOn and AereoKiller, and apps. Fox sues for an injunction with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Aug. 14:Aereo has 2,000 subscribers.
Aereo insider tells Dan Rayburn of Streaming Media the service has only 2,000 paying subs.
Aug. 22:Diller sues BarryDriller.com.
“I had hoped that if they steal my name they’d do it for something more provocative,” Diller tells The Wall Street Journal.
Sept. 20: Cablevision supports broadcasters.
The cable operator at the heart of Aereo’s legal position sides with broadcasters in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Lower Manhattan.
Oct. 17: Aereo adds Windows.
Oct. 29: CEA friends Aereo.
The Consumer Electronics Association files an amicus brief for Aereo with the Second Circuit.
Dec. 20: California judge grants injunction against AereoKiller and Barry Driller.
Judge George Wu is not bound by the Cablevision decision and takes it to task. “Cablevision's focus on the uniqueness of the individual copy from which a transmission is made is misplaced,” he wrote. Wu’s decision creates a “circuit split,” where federal circuit courts issue disparate rulings.
Jan. 8:Aereo secures another $38 million, announces plan to expand to 22 cities in 2013.
April 1: Appeals court affirms lower court decision.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirms Judge Nathan’s ruling. Judge Denny Chin dissents, calling Aereo a “Rube Goldberg-like contrivance, over-engineered in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Copyright Act…”
April 8: News Corp.’s Chase Carey said the 27 Fox O&Os may go off the air if Aereo prevails.
“One option could be converting the Fox broadcast network to a pay channel,” Carey said at the NAB Show, stirring things up a wee bit.
May 23:Fox and NBC sue to stop FilmOn and AereoKiller in D.C. District court.
Networks seek injunction in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
May 30: Aereo launches in Boston.
July 9:Hearst sues Aereo in Boston.
Hearst-owned ABC affiliate WCVB seeks an injunction from the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
July 16:Second Circuit denies en banc hearing.
A federal appeals court denied a request by broadcasters for all 13 judges to consider their request for an injunction against Aereo.
July 10: Aereo launches in Atlanta.
Aug. 19: Aereo launches in Salt Lake City.
Sept. 13: Aereo launches in Chicago.
Oct. 7:Judge allows scrutiny of Aereo technology.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Pitman overrules Aereo’s objections over patent deposition. RF engineers say the arrays of tiny antennas cannot work individually, making Aereo the same as a cable operator and therefore subject to copyright claims.
Oct, 10: Boston judges rule for Aereo.
Hearst fails to secure injunction.
Oct. 11:Broadcasters petition for a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Observer say a review is likely based on the circuit split.
Oct. 22: Aereo adds Android.
Oct. 28: Aereo launches in Detroit.
Nov. 4: Aereo launches in Denver. SCOTUS accepts amicus briefs.
The National Football League, Major League Baseball, Viacom, Time Warner and Warner Bros. file amicus briefs. More than 30 more will be filed.
Dec. 12: Aereo says it won’t fight SCOTUS appeal.
Aereo chief Chet Kanojila said his company won’t oppose broadcasters bid for a review by the Supreme Court.
Jan. 8: Diller sinks another $34 million into Aereo.
Jan 10: SCOTUS grants broadcasters’ petition.
Justice Samuel Alito recuses, creating the possibility of a tie among the eight remaining justices.
Jan 31: Aereo runs out of capacity in New York.
Feb. 19:Utah Broadcasters win injunction against Aereo.
Judge Dale Kimball of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Utah ruled in favor of broadcasters granting a preliminary injunction against Aereo, enjoining the service in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and most of Oklahoma.
Feb. 19: Aereo launches in San Antonio, Texas.
March 3:Aereo launches in Austin, Texas..
March 26: Aereo files brief outlining its arguments.
Aereo is resting on the 1986 Betamax case, which made home recording legal, and on Cablevision, decided in 2008. Engadgetparses the brief.
March 12: Solicitor General files motion to participate in oral arguments on behalf of broadcasters.
April 2: EchoStar and Dish sides with Aereo.
The satellite TV provider throws in with Aereo on an amicus brief filed with the SCOTUS.
April 8:Aereo continues planning its expansion, come what may.
“What’s the point of having money?,” Aereo CEO and founder, Chet Kanojia told the Boston Herald. “If you’re going to lose, you don’t need the money, if you win you’d be a fool to have wasted the time.”
April 9: Four in 10 would cut the cord for Aereo.
In a survey of the Centris Evolution of Video Community, numbering around 1,000 households, 40 percent said they’d “be likely to cancel their [pay] TV service and replace it with Aereo.
April 17: Diller gives Aereo a 50-50 chance in the Supreme Court.
The chairman says he’s “shocked” that the Obama Administration would side with broadcasters. He said the service would be killed if they won, and that the impact on IAC would be inconsequential, like a “pimple on the hide of an elephant.”
April 16: Justice Alito is no longer recused, eliminating the chance of a tie.
April 18: Supreme Court allows feds to participate in oral arguments.
“Motion of the Deputy Solicitor General for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument granted.”
April 21: Aereo’s Kanojia says there's no "Plan B."
Aereo has no strategy for a SCOTUS loss.