While Aereo’s final fall from grace is delivered with some measure of it, there’s still a fundamental refusal to admit that some crucial tenets of intellectual property law prevailed. Instead, CEO Chet Kanojia (pictured above) chose to focus on the “significant challenges from the incumbent media companies,” and hinting that the legal ground had shifted beneath his company. Kanojia explained:
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo’s technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome.”
Not to kick a company when it’s down, but this adds a little fiction to the facts of Aereo’s final chapter.
In reality, the Justices simply clarified to Aereo that its technology was indeed on the wrong side of the existing laws. Aereo tried – and failed – to exploit a potential loophole that turned out to be more of a gray area.
The Supreme Court filled in the black and white for Aereo, that its use of individual rebroadcasting antennas still constituted a public performance that required licensing, not multiple private performances which would not. Charged with paying for the content it was providing to its customers for so little every month, Aereo came up short. Though it’s unfortunate the company couldn’t find a way to legally make enough money to support its operation, that failure lies with Aereo’s executive and legal teams, not the content producers who simply moved to protect their intellectual property.
In Aereo’s story we see not an entrenched industry reluctant to embrace new technology and competition, but a cautionary tale to respect copyright law and creative rights before building a business model based on content owned by others.