WASHINGTON – It was a tough day last Monday for cord cutters and fans of reality singing competitions, as the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that TV-streaming startup Aereo perpetrated significant violations of the Eight Amendment when it allowed users to stream and rebroadcast the long-running competition show “American Idol.”
In writing the decision, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer declared, “Allowing unsuspecting viewers to watch hours upon hours of Jennifer Lopez pretending to know what talent looks like represents a massive violation of the Eighth Amendment’s cruel and unusual punishment clause.”
In a separate, concurring statement, Chief Justice John Roberts added, “Let’s be honest, the show has been garbage since Simon left anyway. I don’t know which is more cruel and unusual: giving viewers the opportunity to watch the show, or forcing poor Ryan Seacrest to keep pretending to care about this mess. Seriously, ‘Firefly’ got canceled after 13 episodes, but ‘American Idol’ gets 13 years?”
Launched in 2012, Aereo was a rented out small antennae to users that allowed them to stream and record live television originally broadcast over the air. The company came under fire from broadcast networks, which claimed that Aereo’s practices represented a massive copyright violation. The court agreed, though the official decision surprisingly spent more time expressing its concerns over the state of shows like “American Idol.”
In a statement issued shortly after the ruling came down, representatives for the FOX network, which airs “American Idol,” expressed mixed emotions. “While we’re glad to see that Aereo will no longer be able to empower its users to pirate our content, we can’t help but feel disheartened by the court’s dislike for our flagship program. ‘American Idol’ has been an American institution for nearly 15 years, and we hope to introduce the nation to many more stars before its time is through.”
Representatives for Aereo were unavailable for comment, with one witness saying the startup’s spokesperson disappeared “as quickly as I deleted ‘Dads’ from my DVR the other night.”
However, not everyone was pleased with the ruling. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia came down hard on his colleagues, saying, “I fear it is not Jennifer Lopez who has lost her eye for talent, but rather it is this court that is unable to see the good that ‘American Idol’ represents. Truly, no show on television illustrates the way America rewards hard work and rugged individualism the way ‘Idol’ does.”
Justice Samuel Alito went on to say that he found “Idol” judge Harry Connick Jr.’s advice to young musicians to be a valuable message to young Americans.
Premiering in 2002, “American Idol” aired its 13th season earlier this year. Despite its waning viewership, the show has produced a number of famous recording artists, including Grammy winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, Grammy nominee Chris Daughtry, and current North Carolina congressional candidate Clay Aiken.