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Supreme Court To Hear Aereo Case 211

Posted by timothy
from the boston-strangler-can't-be-far-behind dept.
schwit1 writes "The Supreme Court will hear broadcasters' challenge to the legality of startup Aereo, in a case that may not only determine the future of digital streaming of station signals but of network television itself. Without comment, the justices on Friday agreed to accept ABC Television Stations vs. Aereo, in which the television networks are seeking to halt the Barry Diller-backed venture, contending that its offering of streams of station signals in New York and other markets violates the public performance provisions of the Copyright Act. Justice Samuel Alito took no part in the consideration of the petition, the court said, without elaborating. Typically such recusals are for a potential conflict of interest, and Alito has previously said that his family owned stock in the Walt Disney Co."
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Supreme Court To Hear Aereo Case

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  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:06PM (#45922593)

    Aereo is essentially a leech on the system. They give nothing back to the content producers.

    Aren't they expanding the number of folks that have access to that content, and hence, the commercials?

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:10PM (#45922629)

    Then again, if I understand the situation correctly the broadcasters aren't really losing anything. Broadcast TV gets its revenues through advertisements, there is no revenue flowing from the delivery of the product. In a way, broadcasters should be grateful that someone is helping them show their ads to even more people without costing them a dime. If they could figure out a way to get viewing figures from Aereo as a form of compensation, to bring to their advertisers as a basis for negotiating rates, they could have the cake and eat it too. If Aereo on the other hand was recording the broadcasts, stripping out the advertisements, and then streaming it on to consumers, that would be a whole other situation.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:10PM (#45922631)

    Aereo is essentially a leech on the system

    How? Broadcasting over the air is a way of distributing content. Aereo does exactly the same thing. Think of it as a repeater for the broadcast signals. The broadcasters should be happy that another party is helping to distribute their content. The broadcasters get paid via advertising revenues, which are proportional to the number of viewers. Why should they object to more viewers?

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:12PM (#45922647) Journal

    Aereo is an online streaming service - among its offering, it enables people who stay very far away from NYC (for example, Sydney Australia) to watch TV stations from NYC.

    The argument from the teevee stations is that by allowing the streaming of their broadcast content, Aereo is violating the "copyright".

    I dunno about you, but I find this argument utterly preposterous !

    Legally speaking, true, the way the copyright laws has been stipulated by those "legal experts" is that a copy of whatever copyrighted content (be it sound, image, book, or the combination of any form) can only be used one time, in one place.

    But c'mon !

    People living in Sydney Australia don't get to watch teevee station beaming from NYC anyway - and by allowing them to watch it via online streaming, how the fuck this going to make the NYC teevee station losing money ?

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:16PM (#45922691) Journal

    Broadcast television got a pretty sweetheart deal: All of this spectrum is yours, just give us a little public interest news every day.

    And that's why it's so easy to root for Aereo: Broadcast television got an absurdly sweet deal (one that, given the absolute shit that passes for 'news' they arguably aren't even honoring) on a very nice chunk of RF. Time for them to move.

    If 'broadcasting' over the internet is sufficiently lucrative that Aereo (a 3rd party that has to run a silly teeny-antenna farm for legal reasons) can make money, they can cut out the middleman and do that instead. But if they want to keep acting like a very nice chunk of the airwaves was just handed to them by god for their convenience, fuck 'em. I'll cheer Aereo every step of the way if they do, in fact, cause one or more of the broadcasters to follow through on their threat to take their ball and go cable only.

    (That said, I'm not actually sure that I believe your argument: Yes, Aereo doesn't provide anything back to the content producers; but neither does putting an antenna on my roof. And yet, sending free signals laced with ads to people with antennas turns out to be a functioning business model. Aereo doesn't actually detract from that, indeed, they increase the number of viewers within range of the signal, at no additional cost to the broadcaster. If they do have a financial effect, it's purely on the assorted shakedowns that govern the 'Must-carry [wikipedia.org]' rules on cable outfits, another absurdly sweetheart deal given to the broadcasters for, um, reasons. Or something.)

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:24PM (#45922745)

    I firmly believe that what Aereo does is, strictly speaking, legal, but hardly fair play.

    That's the best kind of legal.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:32PM (#45922793) Journal

    They shouldn't. Except...

    First issue is that those viewers are time-shifting. The broadcasters hate that because some of their advertisers want the ads to be seen at that time. The great example being Thursday night, when the movie studios want to advertise movies opening that weekend. It doesn't do them as much good if I'm watching commercials meant for Thursday night on the next Monday or I'm watching Monday programming on Thursdays. Why should I, as an advertiser, pay extra for a Thursday night ad when there's no guarantee that the perspective customer will see it on Thursday night?

    Second issue is that those viewers are not being measured. Broadcast television is seeing it's viewership decline as people go do other things--including watching the programs that broadcasters are showing via other means. Remember that ad rates are set by how many people are measured watching the show. No measurement and you have no idea how many people are watching and, therefore, no clue as to how to set the ad rates.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:33PM (#45922807)

    Your opinion shouldn't be 'torn to shreds', your welcome to your opinion, people simply might disagree with it. Specifically what exactly is Aereo doing that I can't do myself? I have an antenna at home able to tune in OTA content, I have a DVR attached to it from which I can record the station of my choice & then 'stream' it anywhere I want to on any device I want. It's 'black letter law' that I have the right to do this. To receive & record all the OTA stations available to me at once I need as many antennas as there are available stations but only 1 DVR & there's certainly no legal limitation on the number of antennas I can have. Now, what if a company sold me a device that had multiple antennas, receivers & 1 DVR that was located in my house from which I streamed the content? Now what if instead of selling it to me they rented it to me? Now just move those devices to a central location and you have Aereo's business model.

    Aereo is simply providing the infrastructure to do this in 1 location, they are 'renting' out the infrastructure that every user would otherwise have to buy and install at home, they are clearly NOT charging their users for content, they are charging for the infrastructure. In the process more users have access to the content, more eyeballs on the commercials, and thus the broadcasters in theory should be able to charge more for the commercials & this 'free content' that they are providing using the 'free (monopoly) spectrum' they were granted by the government.

    Sorry, Aereo is not leaching off of anyone, as always the Broadcasters missed an opportunity that was obvious to someone else with the technical know how & backing to do it & now they are scared of this somehow ruining their 'business model', the Broadcasters don't have a right over how I watch the content delivered OTA I hope the SC puts the smack down on them, it will be good for their ego.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:41PM (#45922891)

    NO! And that's where you're missing the important point, Aereo's business model is 'rent antenna's, a DVR & bandwidth to allow a user to stream content they want from the available OTA signal anywhere the user wants'...Aereo's users are NOT paying for streaming NBC, CBS, ABC etc., if they were then indeed Aereo's business model would be copyright infringement. Consider that for it to be the case that Aereo were charging for 'streaming NBC over the internet' then all they'd ever need is to record 1 copy of the show for themselves, then make that available to all their users that is explicitly not what they do, every user is recording & streaming the particular station they want to watch, again they are renting the infrastructure not paying for the content.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by paiute (550198) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:46PM (#45922931)

    Aereo is essentially a leech on the system. They give nothing back to the content producers.

    Aren't they expanding the number of folks that have access to that content, and hence, the commercials?

    I use Aereo to watch football games while cooking. I see all the TV ads. Otherwise I would listen to it on the radio and hear the radio ads. Is that what the TV network wants?

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Artifakt (700173) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:57PM (#45923013)

    First issue is that those viewers are time-shifting. The broadcasters hate that because some of their advertisers want the ads to be seen at that time.

    The broadcasters will only "hate"* it if the advertisers stop paying as much. Are there advertisers who think Aereo is reducing the number of viewers who see the ads at the 'right' time? Do they think that reduction is greater than the gain for having their name and product come to more people's attention at all? Can the broadcasters show where this has come up in negotiating prices? I ask, because the broadcasters don't seem to be using that as part of their case. If they have specific cash amounts they could point to, that's actual damages, and so far, the case seems to be about potential or statutory damages instead. Showing where a given advertiser has offered less because the time shifting makes that timeslot less valuable would be refreshing, as it would let the broadcasters claim damages based on a simple straight-forward calculation that wouldn't look like Hollywood accounting gone mad.

    * Hopefully, the broadcasters aren't sueing because they 'hate' anybody - lawsuits are supposed to be about making financial matters straight. Responsible adults don't sue becasue they hate someone and want to do whatever kind of damage they can to them, but to make the bottom line come out right. A civil trial is deliberately supposed to be an extraordinarily poor substitute for ripping someone's jugular out.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:18PM (#45923125) Journal

    I firmly believe that what Aereo does is, strictly speaking, legal, but hardly fair play.

    What the broadcasters do is quite unfair, but technically legal as well.

    Aereo is essentially a leech on the system. They give nothing back to the content producers.

    They delivery YOUR eyeballs to the networks and their advertisers. You might go watch YouTube instead, if Aereo didn't exist.

    What broadcasters are worried about is cable retransmission fees, which has nothing to do with Aereo. Viacom wants to keep your cable company paying obscene amounts of money for channels like Nickelodeon and MTV, and threaten to pull their local CBS channel if they don't agree. Broadcast television was never supposed to work that way. Aereo is breaking that model.

    I consider Aereo a valuable service for people like me who are out in the fringes... If I spend $200 on an antenna system, I can get most, but not all, of my local channels, with minor breakups. That same money will pay for Aereo for quite a while. It can also save me from buying a DVR as well, though I must admit, those are getting dirt cheap, these days. [walmart.com]

    And while I can make an antenna work over time, renters without dedicated private roof space (see: FCC) may not be in a position to do so in any case. Those same renters may also not be in a position where they can get satellite service, either. Then it's just a question of being at the mercy of the local cable company, or not having TV, without Aereo.

  • by Enry (630) <enry@[ ]ga.net ['way' in gap]> on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:18PM (#45923129) Journal

    ABC objects to this because they license content, and make money on commercials.

    ABC's inability to make a buck off that is not my problem, nor should it rise to the level of copyright infringement.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evilviper (135110) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:25PM (#45923153) Journal

    Unless viewed in the broadcast area, the value of those commercials is Nil, and the network no longer gets paid proportionally to the number of actual viewers, only to the number of viewers within the area

    Aereo has gone to great lengths to ensure that nobody outside the broadcast footprint can access the content through Aereo. So your point is entirely moot.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@ g m a i l.com> on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:47PM (#45923285) Journal

    Uhh...its the broadcasters themselves that are screwing things up frankly. I mean there is ZERO reason why in 2014 that I shouldn't be able to just go to a webpage and watch my local TV stations, which just FYI I currently can't watch at all because the only way to get a signal here is to get the super to crawl on the roof and set up an antenna and he's backed up a good half a year, but instead they not only don't let the local stations simply stream the same broadcast they are currently showing on the web but thanks to their butt kissing the cablecos you can't even go to the network website and watch same day. meanwhile I can just pirate it and have it commercial free less than 2 hours after broadcast...now which do you think I'm gonna choose?

    If they don't get on the damned ball soon there won't be anybody to watch their shit anyway...you talk to the young folks lately? In my shop I talk to young folks every day and I can't remember the last time I talked to a person under 30 that even watched TV, they have all gone to the net and aren't gonna be tethered to some TV at 9,8 central just to watch a damned show. If they don't make things Aereo easy when the current gen dies off its gonna be AM radio, a niche so tiny nobody gives a shit.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beanpoppa (1305757) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:49PM (#45923963)
    It's basically Tivo, in the cloud. I could put a Tivo box in my house, hooked up to my antenna, and play Tivo $13/mo and watch/time-shift broadcast TV. Or, I can pay Aereo $8/mo for their DVR in the cloud, and do the same exact thing. What's the difference if the DVR is in my house, or remote? The difference with Aereo is that when I am away from my house, I can still watch my DVR. If Tivo+Slingbox is legal (which the courts have said is) then Aereo should be legal.
  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Saturday January 11, 2014 @08:22AM (#45925581)

    "The major difference is that advertisers that you see for NY products on your Slingbox have a reasonable expectation that you will be returning ..."

    Just like printer manufacturers have apparently a reasonable expectation that you will buy cartridges from them for their printers that they sell below a reasonable price, or games for your Xbox or...

    The customers are not responsible for the unreasonable expectations of somebody's business plan.

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