An Indian-American innovator's video streaming service that sought to provide an alternative to traditional TV broadcasters has suspended operations, three days after the US Supreme Court ruled that it violated copyright laws.
The apex court had ruled on Wednesday that Chet Kanojia's startup Aereo had violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals on miniature antennas and transmitting them to subscribers for a fee.
"On Wednesday, the US Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision in favour of Aereo, dealing a massive setback to consumers. As a result of that decision, our case has been returned to the lower court. We have decided to pause our operations temporarily as we consult with the court and map out our next steps," Kanojia said in an email to consumers.
"All of our users will be refunded their last paid month," he said.
The company had fewer than 500,000 subscribers in about a dozen metropolitan areas. Customers paid USD 8 to USD 12 a month to rent one of Aereo's dime-size antennas that captured over-the-air television signals.
They then could stream and record programmes from major broadcasters using their mobile phones, tablets, laptops and Internet-connected televisions.
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court sided with broadcasters in a case that was closely watched by the media and technology industries.
"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," Kanojia asserted.
"It has been staggering and we are so grateful for your emails, Tweets and Facebook posts. Keep your voices loud and sign up for updates at ProtectMyAntenna.org - our journey is far from done," he said.
Headed by Kanojia, Aereo has developed cloud-based antenna and DVR technology that allows consumers to watch live or recorded HD broadcast television on virtually any type of Internet-connected device, including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers.
Kanojia launched the product in New York last year and then extended it to 10 other cities.
Soon the top American cable broadcasters including ABC, CBS and Fox approached the Supreme Court alleging that Aereo was infringing current copy right laws.