Aereo Suspends Operations After Supreme Court Defeat

Online video service Aereo suspended operations on Saturday, just days after its defeat at the Supreme Court.

“We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps,” CEO and founder Chet Kanojia said in an email sent to subscribers over the weekend. Kanojia also promised to refund subscribers their last month's payment.

From its 2012 debut until this weekend, Aereo offered paying subscribers the opportunity to stream over-the-air television shows to
their smartphones and tablets. The company also offered DVR functionality, allowing users to “record” shows for later viewing.

After initially launching in New York, the $8 a month service rolled out to 11 cities in the U.S.

A coalition of broadcasters sued to shut down Aereo, arguing that the service shouldn't be allowed to publicly perform television shows without paying retransmission fees. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court sided with the broadcasters, ruling 6-3 that Aereo infringed copyright.

The court rejected Aereo's argument that its architecture protected it from copyright infringement liability. Aereo uses dime-size antennas to capture programs and stream them on an antenna-to-user basis. The start-up said that the one-to-one nature of the streams meant they were “private,” and therefore didn't require licenses.

The Supreme Court said in its ruling that Aereo's underlying technology wasn't relevant to whether it infringed copyright.

For his part, Kanojia continues to defend the company's business. “The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air
programming belongs to the American public, and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud,” he wrote.

He thanked subscribers for their “outpouring of support,” which he called “staggering.” “We are so grateful for your emails, Tweets and Facebook posts. Keep your voices loud and sign up for updates at ProtectMyAntenna.org -- our journey is far from done,” he wrote.

Aereo's next move is still unclear, but the company potentially could be hit with huge damages for copyright infringement. Aereo currently faces copyright lawsuits in New York, Boston and Salt Lake City. Those cases were placed on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling, but the litigation appears likely to resume now that the court has sided with the broadcasters.
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