Supreme Court Agrees to Hear ABC Vs. Aereo

Copyright case could determine future of streaming, cloud storage and broadcasting

Aereo will get its day in court. The Supreme Court of the U.S. Friday afternoon issued an order granting review of ABC Inc. v. Aereo.

At stake is the future of streaming video on the Internet and the established broadcast business model.

The upstart streaming TV service, currently in 10 markets, has been under attack by all the major broadcast owners, which have sued Aereo for copyright infringement in nearly every market where it has launched.

Last fall, after a D.C. court decision conflicted with a New York court decision, broadcasters petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to review what is bound to be one of the most important copyright cases in recent memory.

For its part, Aereo is hoping that the Supreme Court review will end its legal troubles once and for all. The Barry Diller-backed company, which just got an additional round of financing to the tune of $34 million, believes it is on firm legal ground that its rental of an small, tiny, dimed-sized antenna to capture and stream local TV signals represents a personal, not a commercial performance.

"We said from the beginning that it was our hope that this case could be decided on the merits and not through a wasteful war of attrition," said Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo. "We look forward to presenting our case to the Supreme Court, and we have every confidence that the court will validate and preserve a consumer's right to access local over-the-air television with an individual antenna, make a personal recording with a DVR and watch that recording on a device of their choice.

"This case is critically important not only to Aereo, but to the entire cloud computing and cloud storage industry."

If found legal, Aereo could take a serious financial bite out of the broadcast business model by paving the way for cable and other services to circumvent copyright and lucrative retransmission fees, a growing source of revenue for broadcast station owners. Some cable companies, like Fox, even threatened to turn all their broadcast programming into cable channels.

To protect their copyright, broadcast owners had no choice but to go after Aereo and petition the Supreme Court to review the case.

"We are confident the court will recognize that this has never been about stifling new video distribution technologies, but has always been about stopping a copyright violator who redistributes television programming without permission or compensation," said Fox, Tribune, PBS, Univision and WNET in a joint statement.

“We believe that Aereo’s business model, and similar offerings that operate on the same principle, are built on stealing the creative content of others. We are pleased that our case will be heard, and we look forward to having our day in court," CBS said in a statement. 

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