Aereo CEO Says Work Isn’t Done as Court Rules Copyright Violated

Jun 25, 2014 12:18 pm ET

June 25 (Bloomberg) -- Aereo Inc. says a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the online TV-streaming company infringes on broadcasters’ copyrights doesn’t mean the battle is over yet.

“We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done,” Aereo Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”

The Supreme Court ruled today that the Barry Diller-backed Internet startup is violating broadcasters’ copyrights. The 6-3 ruling is a triumph for broadcast companies, including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, 21st Century Fox Inc., Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and CBS Corp. They said Aereo was threatening the underpinnings of the industry by selling programming online without paying licensing fees.

The court fight centered on a provision in the federal copyright law that gives owners the exclusive right to perform their works “publicly.” Justice Stephen Breyer said Aereo violated that provision, operating much like a cable-TV provider.

Kanojia said the decision could send a “chilling message” to the technology industry.

“Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer,” Kanojia said in the statement. “We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter.”

Public Performance

Aereo set out to deliver access to broadcast TV content to consumers who didn’t want to pay for cable-TV bundles. The startup’s service, which records programming from an off-site antenna and delivers it via the Internet to a single customer, costs as little as $8-a-month.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said Aereo didn’t violate the “public performance” provision because it let subscribers choose which programs they were receiving. He said the justices should have sent the case back to a lower court to let the broadcasters press other copyright arguments. If necessary, he said, the broadcasters could have taken their concerns to Congress.

--With assistance from Greg Stohr and Laurie Asseo in Washington.