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Aereo, CEA Disappointed But Unbowed At Supreme Decision

New York – The Supreme Court’s decision to side with broadcasters against Aereo in the American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo case was a major disappointment for the company and for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) who strongly backed the firm.

The Court has reversed a lower court ruling denying broadcasters’ injunction against Aereo in a 6-3 decision with Justice Breyer delivering the opinion. Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

Gary Shapiro, president/CEO of CEA said in a statement, “We are disappointed that the Supreme Court today ruled against innovator Aereo, but are pleased the Court said it favored future innovation and specifically referred to the Sony Betamax principles of fair use as a safety valve for new services and technologies. We especially appreciate Justice Scalia’s powerful dissent describing how innovation is often opposed by incumbents who make false, ‘the sky is falling’ predictions about the future.”

Shapiro added, “We have concerns that the Court, although welcoming innovation, also declared that ‘to the extent commercial actors … may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ We believe laws should be clear and favor innovation. Innovators should not have to get ambiguous laws changed to give consumers new products and services.”

As he has in the past, Shapiro pushed the notion that few use the public broadcast spectrum to watch TV today. “The decision raises issues on the future of broadcasting. Given that consumers are increasingly choosing to view content ‘anytime/anywhere’ on smartphones and tablets, and only six percent of Americans rely exclusively on over-the-air television, we question how much longer broadcasters can claim to justify their use of public spectrum when they oppose innovative services like Aereo which expand their viewing audience.”

On April 4, CEA, in conjunction with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Engine Advocacy and Public Knowledge, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of Aereo.

Chet Kanojia, Aereo CEO and founder, who, ironically, a year ago was touting the company’s rollout at CE Week, which is being held again here, said, “Today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court is a massive setback for the American consumer. We’ve said all along that we worked diligently to create a technology that complies with the law, but today’s decision clearly states that how the technology works does not matter. This sends a chilling message to the technology industry.  It is troubling that the Court states in its decision that, ‘to the extent commercial actors or other interested entities may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ That begs the question: Are we moving towards a permission-based system for technology innovation?”

Kanojia added, “Consumer access to free-to-air broadcast television is an essential part of our country’s fabric. Using an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television is still meaningful for more than 60 million Americans across the United States.  And when new technology enables consumers to use a smarter, easier to use antenna, consumers and the marketplace win. Free-to-air broadcast television should not be available only to those who can afford to pay for the cable or satellite bundle.”

 He added, “Justice Scalia’s dissent gets its right. He calls out the majority’s opinion as ‘built on the shakiest of foundations.’ Justice Scalia goes on to say that ‘The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable television systems… but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its results-driven rule.’ ”

 The Aereo founder noted, “We are disappointed in the outcome, but our work is not done.  We will continue to fight for our consumers and fight to create innovative technologies that have a meaningful and positive impact on our world.”