In a case that could have a broad impact on how companies deliver content to consumers, the Supreme Court heard oral argument this week in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc. (No. 13-461). At issue is whether Aereo’s service engages in public performances under the Copyright Act in transmitting broadcast television content to its subscribers’ wired and wireless devices. While the Justices questioned both parties on a variety of issues, a clear focus for the Court was the potential impact of its decision on other technologies not at issue in this case.
Aereo provides broadcast television streaming and recording services to its subscribers, who can watch selected programing on various Internet-connected devices, including televisions, mobile phones and tablets. Aereo provides its service through individual antennas that pick up local television broadcast signals and transmit those signals to a server where individual copies of programs embedded in such signals are created and saved to the directories of subscribers who want to view such programs. A subscriber can then watch the selected program nearly live (subject to a brief time-delay from the recording) or later from the recording. No two users share the same antenna at the same time, nor do any users share access to the same stored copy of a program.
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