The Supreme Court dealt a potentially fatal blow to the TV streaming startup Aereo on Monday, ruling that the company with thousands of tiny antennas was guilty of copyright infringement on a massive scale.
First launched in 2012, the company allows people in several metro areas to view and record over-the-air television broadcasts over the Internet. Broadcasters sued Aereo, arguing that streaming their content without permission was copyright infringement.
But Aereo disagrees. The service is built around a vast array of tiny antennas — one for each active user. Citing a 2008 court decision, Aereo has argued that customers are just renting individual antennas to watch television they're legally entitled to watch anyway.
In a 6-3 decision written by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court sided with the broadcasters. Three of the court's conservatives — Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, dissented.
Some observers were concerned that a loss for Aereo would place music lockers and other cloud computing services in legal jeopardy. The majority was at pains to say that wasn't the case.
"We have not considered whether the public performance right is infringed when the user of a service pays primarily for something other than the transmission of copyrighted works, such as the remote storage of content," Justice Breyer wrote. He said that he agreed with the Obama administration's view that "questions involving cloud computing, remote storage DVRs, and other novel issues not before the court should await a case in which they are squarely presented."