Aereo to "pause" service after Supreme Court defeat

The company will refund customers' last paid month, but vows to fight on

Following Wednesday's adverse Supreme Court decision, Aereo will suspend its online service, which lets its subscribers watch "over the air" broadcast television via the Web.

"We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps. All of our users will be refunded their last paid month," wrote CEO Chet Kanojia in a letter to customers posted on Aereo's home page on Saturday.

Kanojia, who advised customers with questions to contact the company via email at support@aereo.com or via its @AereoSupport Twitter account, also encouraged them to stay involved with the company's legal fight on the website ProtectMyAntenna.org. "Our journey is far from done," he wrote.

Aereo rebroadcasts over-the-air television through antenna farms, but the Supreme Court ruled that the web-based video streaming service violates the copyrights of TV networks and sent the case back to the lower courts.

Aereo infringes on the performance right section of copyright law because it sells subscribers a service that lets them watch TV programs over the Internet at "about the same time" they're broadcast over the air, wrote Justice Stephen Breyer for the 6-3 majority.

Aereo, which was sued for copyright infringement by ABC, CBS and other broadcast TV networks, argued that it rents each subscriber an antenna and a DVR service, and that they individually choose which programs to watch. Unlike cable and satellite TV services, which pay royalties to some networks, Aereo does not give thousands of people access to the same TV show at the same time, Aereo had argued.

The Supreme Court reversed an April 2013 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which had determined that the Aereo service was legal because the company uses several legal technologies, including mini TV antennas, DVRs and a Slingbox-like streaming service.

In his letter, Kanojia called the Supreme Court's decision "a massive setback for consumers."

"The spectrum that the broadcasters use to transmit over the air programming belongs to the American public and we believe you should have a right to access that live programming whether your antenna sits on the roof of your home, on top of your television or in the cloud," he wrote.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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