“Given the limited nature of this holding, the Court does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence of different kinds of technologies,” the court noted in its summary of the decision.
The 6-3 decision found that Aereo violated the copyrights of TV marketers, broadcasters, and distributors whose programs people streamed online through Aereo’s tiny, individual antennas.
Specifically, Aereo and its supporters did not want the Supreme Court to decide that the shows it streamed through its antennas constituted a “public performance.” Generally, copyright law requires you to get permission before broadcasting a “public performance,” under a provision known as the Transmit Clause.
This clause applies to cable companies, which have to pay broadcasters, but Aereo said its own broadcasts should be considered “private” because they were sent through individual antennas.
In its ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court agreed that Congress did not intend to “discourage or to control the emergence of different kinds of technologies” when it passed that provision of copyright law.
However, the Transmit Clause should apply to cable companies and their “equivalents,” the high court ruled. And the majority of the court equated Aereo to a cable company and not merely a provider of equipment (in this case, antennas).
The court made it clear that its ruling does not apply to the remote storage of online content.
“We cannot now answer more precisely how the Transmit Clause or other provisions of the Copyright Act will apply to technologies not before us.” the court found. “We agree with the Solicitor General that “[q]uestions involving cloud computing, [remote storage] DVRs, and other novel issues not before the Court, as to which ‘Congress has not plainly marked [the] course,’ should await a case in which they are squarely presented.”
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