IP Today Guest Article: Supreme Court's Aereo Ruling Could Have Far-Reaching Effects


On April 22, 2014, the full nine-judge bench of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in American Broadcasting Companies Inc., et al., v. Aereo, Inc. The Court is expected to issue an opinion this month as to whether Aereo’s system, which captures over-the-air television broadcasts and makes them available to its customers over the Internet, violates copyright law. The ruling is expected to have a profound impact on the television industry, affecting such issues as retransmission fees, advertising revenue, consumer control over content, and the way networks elect to broadcast television. The ruling could also have far-reaching impacts on other technologies, including cloud storage and computing.

Aereo, Inc., an online television service, charges its users a monthly fee to watch “live” or recorded broadcast television programs on cell phones, computers, and other mobile platforms. Aereo utilizes “farms” of thousands of miniature antennas (with an individual antenna assigned to each of its users) that capture local over-the-air television transmissions, create an individual DVR-like recording, and then re-broadcast that recording over the Internet to Aereo’s users in the same local area. Importantly for the broadcasters, Aereo does not pay the broadcasters a fee or license the use of these over-the-air transmissions.

The dispute began when the four major television broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox - brought suit against Aereo in the Southern District of New York alleging that its retransmission system violates their copyrights to television content and represents a threat to their ability to generate advertising revenue and control subscription fees. Specifically, the networks claim that Aereo’s unauthorized retransmissions of their copyrighted material to its users are public performances in violation of copyright law. Aereo counters that its service is perfectly legal and allows its users to obtain content they could already access legally with a personal television antenna. Aereo asserts that the retransmissions are not public performances, but rather enable private performances that are allowable under copyright law.

Excerpted from IP Today, June 10, 2014. To view full article, click here (subscription required).

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