The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in two cases Wednesday that will have a major impact on the way New Yorkers watch television and use smartphones. Washington reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report.
In a case that has been described as deciding the future of television the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that Aereo, an upstart Internet streaming service, violates federal copyright law.
Aereo works by capturing broadcast TV signals on miniature antennas and streams the content to subscribers for a fee. But Aereo does not pay the broadcast networks for their licensed content, arguing its antennas are just modern day rabbit ears.
The court's 6-3 decision is a win for the major television networks, which said that Aereo’s business model was nothing more than high-tech theft of their programming. The networks' attorney said as much when the case was argued earlier this year.
"I think what's at stake at this case is really the nature of broadcast television as we know it, because if a company like Aereo can somehow provide content to lots of paying strangers without engaging in a public performance, I think the networks, at least some of them, will have to rethink the way the provide content," said Paul Clement, Counsel for Broadcast Networks.
The streaming service Aereo has operations in New York. Following the Supreme Court ruling, Aereo’s biggest financial backer said the company is "over now."
In another major ruling Wednesday, the justices ruled unanimously that police officers need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. That decision is considered a major victory for privacy rights.
The court heard two cases in April, in which law enforcement searched cellphones without first obtaining warrants. In writing the court's decision, Chief Justice John Roberts said the vast amount of sensitive information contained on modern smartphones must be protected.
He wrote, in part, "A decade ago officers might have occasionally stumbled across a highly personal item such as a diary, but today many of the more than 90 percent of American adults who own cell phones keep on their person a digital record of nearly every aspect of their lives."
More rulings from the high court are expected Thursday and next Monday, when the Supreme Court ends its term.