Aereo's Supreme Court loss proves Washington has no business making decisions on technology

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We've seen this before. Washington DC proving time and again its lack of knowledge about the modern technological world. We witnessed it when Ted Stephens, in a speech to congress, famously referred to the internet as "a series of tubes". Most recently, we've had to deal with the FCC looking to put an end to Net Neutrality -- see John Oliver's description for the best explanation on that. The latter is more likely less about knowledge and more about being in the pockets of cable company lobbyists.

Now the latest blow has been dealt. The Supreme Court has handed down its decision on Aereo. If you aren't familiar, Aereo is, or perhaps was, a TV provider which was moving into various cities around the US. If it was in your market, you could "rent" an antenna which picked up over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts. The company then retransmitted this to the customer via an internet connection. Each customer rented his or her own dime-sized antenna.

The 6-3 decision, which can be read in a 35 page PDF document, begins by citing the 1976 copyright act. The minority vote found Aereo's arguments valid -- that it acts as a cable provider. However the differences helped sway the ruling. Chiefly that, while cable is a continuous broadcast, Aereo is activated only when a subscriber wishes to watch a show. "The systems in those cases transmitted constantly, whereas Aereo's system remains inert until a subscriber indicates that she wants to watch a program", the ruling reads.

Aereo has been in court almost since it launched, arguing that it was protected under the precedent from a 2008 case regarding cloud DVR services -- something also operated by PlayOn without legal incident.

The ruling, handed down by Justice Steven Breyer, is a major blow to Aereo and may, in all likelihood, put the company out of business. It also goes a long way towards showing what the government lacks in technical knowledge, as many expected Aereo to prevail. We will await further updates for now -- the ruling has only just been announced.

Photo Credit: Livestockimages/Shutterstock

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