Calling all early adopters of technology: Your wings just got clipped by the Supreme Court before you really got a chance to fly.
The Internet video streaming video service "Aereo," barely a year old, thought it had found a way to allow you to watch or record any broadcast TV show on your smartphone or tablet, anywhere, anytime - for just $8 a month - which, of course, would have revolutionized just about everything about today's entertainment industry as we know it, and which modeled what most analysts assume is where things are headed, one way or another, sooner or later. But then the networks intervened.
Backed by major media moguls such as the legendary Barry Diller, the power behind Paramount, Fox, USA and QVC, Aereo was launched in New York last year, and was then extended to 10 other cities, with many more to come. The established networks, including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, sued, claiming copyright infringement. The case actually came down to a ruling on a fairly narrow interpretation of one of those "arcane" legalisms. (Some even thought Aereo stood a good chance of sliding through.) But Wednesday's 6-3 Supreme Court decision in the networks' favor finished off that possibility.
The one piece of good news in the ruling for consumers, according to Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the decision for the majority, is that it was a "limited" decision "that will not discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies." That's in keeping with what the Justice Department, acting on behalf of the Obama administration, had urged.
But for now, the networks stay firmly planted in the driver's seat; they get to charge what they want or what the market will bear. Stay tuned for a better mousetrap that can actually pass the legal muster.