Court Decision Marks the End of Aero, But Not Cord Cutting

6/25/2014 Unknown 0 Comments

Copyright law is a tricky thing.  It's important to protect the intellectual property of artists, but oftentimes, measures to protect copyright result in making it more difficult to consume content.  Although cable companies saw the first net subscriber decrease last year and streaming media is taking over, the old broadcast companies still have a death grip on a lot of content, despite a major surge of online-only content.

A major battle in the content distribution battle was won by the big broadcast companies, when the Supreme Court of the US determined that Aero was basically conducting illegal business by making broadcast television available to consumers over the internet.

Aero has an interesting business model, where consumers are charged $8 per month for access to basic digital broadcast television (the publicly available kind, not cable or satellite).  Aero sets up banks of antennas in cities where it provides service, and each subscriber has their own leased antenna and DVR functionality.  It functions identically, in practice, to how it would if the user installed their own antenna and connected it to their own DVR, the difference is that it's in the cloud.

Aero is not cutting out commercials or charging for packages of specific stations, or programming.  It is literally only charging for access to its cloud functionality and equipment rental.  The idea behind this is that Aero is not providing any functionality that isn't legal for the customer to provide on their own.  The difference is that Aero owns, hosts, and manages the physical antenna, which--in effect--makes them an equipment provider, not a content provider.  Keeping the practice cleanly inside the law.

Unfortunately, the content providers were able to convince the SCOTUS that Aero's business practice constituted the actions of a content provider, and as such, it has been practicing copyright infringement by illegally providing content.  Unfortunately, there isn't much recourse for Aero in this matte and, as Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia told The Verge in an interview earlier this year: "If it’s a total straight-up loss... then it’s dead. We’re done."

Fortunately, this isn't the end for cord cutters and digital streaming services.  The old world of content control and distribution is still dying and on its way out.  This court decision merely acts as a speed bump to the arrival of the future of television.

Source: The Verge

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