Let's be honest: this court battle isn't about legality at all. It's about revenues. The stations who broadcast this content do so over the air for free, and Aereo has found a way to monetize that, so now they want a cut.
Of course, if they don't get a cut, they'll just find a way to make a deal with a company that will in turn buy out Aereo and get them the cut anyway.
The Supreme Court shouldn't view this case as a decision to be made about the legality of streaming otherwise free content. They should view it as a decision to be made about the intelligence of business models and whether a bad business model should be able to strongarm a smart business model out of existence.
I agree that this case is all about who gets to make money on this product/service and who gets the control over streaming media.
In my opinion, some licensing fees are ridiculous. For instance, I have Dish Network and on my channel list I often see a basketball game I would like to watch. If it is a local team and a home game, when I turn to that channel it would see a message that says something like "this event is not viewable in your area". That means if I lived in a different state and subscribed to the same service I would get to watch the game. Because of licensing fees, in order to watch the game where I live, I would have to subscribe to another channel for my region. That is like charging me twice and just ridiculous! I know the networks and content providers are there to make money, but any ruling that makes content more accessible (because that is the direction in which technology is moving anyway) and any ruling that can prevent price gouging for local sporting events is welcome.
What a horrid thought. The people who create and/or own content want to be paid when that content is used to make a profit! Outrageous!
@kanoobie, I heave heard of such deals. The sports team usually enforces them. It's because they get money from putting fannies in seats. If you watch it at home, they get less money. They used to black it out entirely in the local area unless the stadium was sold out. Simple business; they don't want to sell it to you for ten cents when they could sell it to you for ten dollars instead.
Like the article says, OTA is available with an OTA antenna. In some areas,OTA is better than ever since the DTV transition. In some areas, like mine, OTA is somewhat of a challenge due to the details of its implementation - namely 8VSB modulation.
Part of the trouble is that roof mounted TV antennas (not satellite dishes) have gone by the wayside; people no longer see them as fashionable.
But, I would prefer a ruling that does not obsolete getting OTA TV for free with an antenna as some broadcasters have threatened.
If it were me sitting on that bench, this would be in conflict with "Fair Use" rules where copyrighted material cannot be used for profit. Since Aereo is making a profit by providing their customers with copyrighted content, even if they get it for free OTA, I see this as amounting to piracy. What difference would there be between Aereo's service and selling electronic copies of a show that was recorded over the air, making a profit for the service, and not paying licensing fees? In many ways, Aereo is providing what CATV used to be "community antenna television," and CATV in its current form, pays licensing fees to broadcasters for material.
As I see it, just because they make "private copies only for one viewer," does not make it different from piracy. Essentially, that is what pirates do when they copy any show and sell it to their clientele. Pirates make private copies for their clientele, and according to this, the district court that ruled that it was legal is on the shady edge of the law, IMHO.