Aereo has won a ruling in a federal appeals court, which ruled that Aereo’s service, taking broadcast TV signals and then streaming them to customers online, affirmed an earlier lower court ruling that Aereo does not violate broadcaster copyrights.
The decision no doubt will be appealed. Also, a separate ruling in California has said an Aereo lookalike does infringe broadcaster copyrights. So nothing is “finally” settled. But the decision will bolster Aereo’s efforts to raise more money and expand outside the New York market.
The decision might also encourage other potential partners. If Aereo’s service is ultimately deemed lawful and non-infringing, video service providers will simply contract with Aereo or other providers, or add off-air antennas to set-top boxes to avoid paying carriage fees to over the air broadcasters.
That obviously would reduce service provider costs, deprive broadcasters of some revenue and possibly have other repercussions.
If Aereo can sign contracts with other traditional cable-only networks, Aereo might be able to sell lower-cost video packages, with some flexibility. That could take the form of less-costly packages of channels, at the very least.
At some point, Aereo might help create a business environment where users can choose to buy single channels, or even single programs. That possibility remains off in the future; for the moment, the key impact on the business is the potential disruption of broadcast TV affiliate fee revenue earned by broadcast outlets from video service providers.
In some ways, the ruling builds on an earlier 2008 ruling that network DVRs are lawful. In that case, film studios and TV channels argued that a proposed Cablevision “network DVR” service violated their copyrights.
The legal disputes are by no means over. But the clash over the application of copyright protection as new technology emerges is an old story. So is the resistance of legacy video entertainment interests to virtually every technological advance.
In the long run, one might argue broadcast TV copyright holders are likely to make accommodations to streaming delivery, one way or the other. They’ve made peace with VCRs, home video, cable TV, digital TV and network DVRs. Sooner or later, streaming video will join the list of innovations to which broadcasters have made peace.
Edited by Braden Becker