Consider the recent Supreme Court battle over Internet startup company Aereo as a pirate movie: major TV networks like CBS, NBC and ABC as giant oil tankers, surrounded by hordes of sniping Internet raiders in little boats, stinging here, nipping there, each hungry for a bite of a massive $167 billion U.S. TV market and turning to the court for rescue.
This time, the court landed solidly, by a 6-3 majority, in favor of the networks, ruling that Aereo had violated copyrights by streaming television programming to hundreds of thousands of customers for a fee, through tiny dime-size antennas without access to cable or satellite and, according to the Supreme Court, ripping off CBS.
Aereo, which started in New York and Boston and planned to expand to 24 other major U.S. cities, instead announced it would "temporarily" suspend business.
The battle had raged for two years, with broadcasters arguing in April before the court that Aereo and similar services cut into their revenue from cable and satellite companies for transmitting their proprietary broadcast material into homes.
At stake? A whopping $4 billion in treasure that companies like ComCast, NBCUniversal and CBS are anxious to protect, and a likely end for upstart Aereo
CBS chief Les Moonves
told Bloomberg Television, "It certainly feels good to win as decisively as we did."
The case, he said, "wasn't about technology. It was about theft. And all that's important here is that broadcasters and cable content companies and everyone who's involved with the content-producing business gets paid appropriately for their content. And that somebody can't come and take that content, charge for it, and not pay us back for that content. So, it's a very good day for our future."
Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia disagreed sharply, and asked his customers to besiege Congress with letters on Aereo's behalf.
"[The] decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. This sends a chilling message to the technology industry."
It's only the latest licensing war to embroil CBS. Last year, in a struggle with Time Warner Cable, CBS
pulled its broadcasting content from the cable firm, causing many customers who wanted CBS' broadcasting, especially its exclusive rights to National Football League games, to switch to satellite providers like DirectTV, until Time Warner buckled and gave in.
Justices Stephen G. Breyer, writing the majority opinion, John G. Roberts, Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan took sides with CBS, while Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito formed the dissent.
However, the pirate raids are not over: other small-fish providers like Simple TV and Raleigh, N.C.'s Mohu are experimenting with different technological approaches that might pass legal muster, intimating more trouble for network giants in the near future.
TV Streaming Startups Forge Ahead, Guided by Aereo Ruling -- http://www.newsmax.com/us/aereo-streaming-television-cable/2014/06/30/id/579955/
Aereo halts Service After Supreme Court Loss to Broadcasters -- http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/aereo-halts-services-web/2014/06/30/id/579905/
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