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Supreme Court rules Aereo violated copyright

Published: Wednesday, June 25 2014 12:50 p.m. MDT

A videojournalist sets up outside of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, April 22, 2014. The court is hearing oral arguments between Aereo, Inc., an Internet startup company that gives subscribers access to television on their laptops and other portable devices and the over-the-air broadcasters.

J. David Ake, Associated Press

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Streaming service Aereo lost its bid in the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, in what broadcasting challengers called a "consumer victory."

The court's decision found that the 2-year-old startup violated copyright with its service, which allowed users to watch and record local broadcast channels on a variety of devices.

Aereo's argument, as cited in the Wall Street Journal, was that giving TV consumers a way to watch local broadcast online didn't constitute copyright violation.

The real victory for broadcasters, as Adam Liptak and Emily Steel said in a New York Times article, was that they will now maintain leverage in negotiating the distribution of their content.

"The fear was that a favorable ruling for Aereo would spur cable, satellite and startups to license or create technologies similar to Aereo that would capture and resell copyrighted programming," the article said. "Even if the distributors did not create such technologies, they could use the threat as leverage in tense negotiations with broadcasters over retransmission fees."

But some, like Verge writer Jacob Kastrenakes, contended that the decision quashed much-needed innovation in the industry.

"The ruling is one of the most important seen by the television industry since the 1984 Betamax case but in many ways will have an opposite effect, stifling one area of innovation that was beginning to force the industry out of its comfort zone," Kastrenakes wrote. "Some broadcasters had even said that they would open their own Aereo competitors if the service were found to be legal. Instead, this ruling fully removes Aereo and copycat services as a threat."

The move garnered mixed response on Twitter, with the Columbia Journalism Review tweeting that broadcast TV "dodged disaster" and The Washington Post's Cecilia Kang tweeting that the decision will keep TV "ever the same."

Now that its service has been deemed illegal, Aereo will likely have to pay many broadcaster licensing fees, the amount of which haven't yet been determined.

Disney, which owns ABC, told The New York Times the decision "upheld important copyright principles that help ensure that the high-quality creative content consumers expect and demand is protected and incentivized."

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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