WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court will decide whether a startup company can offer live television broadcasts over the Internet without paying fees to broadcasters.
The high court agreed to hear an appeal from television broadcast networks in their attempt to shut down Aereo Inc., which takes free signals from the airwaves and sends them over the Internet to paying subscribers.
Broadcasters have sued Aereo for copyright infringement. The big networks have supplemented their advertising revenue with fees from cable and satellite TV companies for redistributing their stations to subscribers. If customers drop their pay-TV service and use Aereo, broadcasters would lose some of that revenue.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year Aereo did not violate the copyrights of broadcasters with its service but a similar service has been blocked by other judges.
Aereo claims what it is doing is legal because it has thousands of tiny antennas at its data centers and assigns individual subscribers their own antenna. According to Aereo, that makes it akin to customers picking up free broadcast signals with a regular antenna at home.