Aereo Fight: Supreme Court Justices Worried About Tech Impact of Decision

Arguments began Tuesday in the case of American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo.
Matt Furman
Barry Diller

WASHINGTON – Broadcasters seem to have the edge after oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the case of American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo.

The justices expressed concern about Barry Diller's Aereo startup, which captures broadcast TV transmissions via tiny antennas and then relays the programming to subscribers' digital devices. But they seemed reluctant to make a decision that could impair other tech services, like cloud computing, which was mentioned multiple times by justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

Breyer did note that what Aereo is doing "disturbs" him.

The case could alter the TV landscape in a major way.

ANALYSIS: Aereo to Face Uphill Battle in Supreme Court, Experts Say

Broadcasters say Aereo merely is a technologically sophisticated way to violate copyright laws. They also see it as a significant threat to an increasingly important revenue stream: the billions in retransmission fees they receive from cable and satellite providers to carry their content.

Diller recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he thinks Aereo has a "a 50-50 chance [of prevailing], certainly not on what I think supposedly settled law is but because it has become so controversial. It's going to be a tough, tough battle."