Aereo finds no friend in Supreme Court chief justice

Aereo court battle
Aereo may be headed for a hammering

Aereo was met with a chilly reception from Chief Justice Roberts during its Supreme Court outing today.

"Your technological model is solely based on circumventing," Roberts said of Aereo, making a case for overturning a 2013 appeals court ruling that found in favor of allowing the company to stay in business.

Aereo, which rents out tiny antennas that pick up over-the air TV signals, then streams the results to customers via the Internet, has said that it may be out of business if the case does not go their way.

As Aereo founder and CEO Chet Kanojia told the Associated Press, "We don't have a Plan B."

Winds of change

Aereo maintains that from a legal standpoint, its operation is identical to a perfectly legal scenario wherein a user sets up an antenna in their home and hooks up to a DVR to record shows to watch later.

But Roberts seemed unsympathetic to Aereo's line of reasoning, saying, "There's no reason for you to have 10,000 dime-sized antennas except to get around the Copyright Act."

Bear in mind, of course, that Roberts is just one justice and that the Supreme Court is not due to rule on the issue until June.

Other justices may well have differing opinions of the company's business model. Justices Sotomayor and Breyer were particularly inquisitive today, and all justices except Thomas asked questions. Interestingly, Justice Alito, who had previously recused himself, has decided he will take part after all, eliminating the possibility of a tie (which would uphold the lower court's ruling in Aereo's favor).

Kanojia was in court today to see arguments as was key Aereo backer Barry Diller.

Filling out the opposition's ranks were Fox co-COO James Murdoch, Fox Television chief Peter Rice, as well as MPAA CEO Christopher Dodd. If the ruling goes Aereo's way, executives from CBS and Fox have pledged to remove their most popular primetime shows from over-the-air broadcasts, restricting them to customers who pay to receive them via cable or satellite.