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The Courts Television The Media

Broadcasters Petition US Supreme Court In Fight Against Aereo 229

First time accepted submitter wasteoid writes "Aereo provides live-streaming and cloud-based DVR capability for Over-The-Air (OTA) broadcasts to their paying customers. Broadcasters object to this functionality, with Fox claiming about Aereo, 'Make no mistake, Aereo is stealing our broadcast signal.' The focus appears to be the ability of Aereo to provide streaming and DVR capabilities that traditional broadcasters have not delivered. The litigious broadcasters are fighting against "Aereo's illegal disruption of their business model.""
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Broadcasters Petition US Supreme Court In Fight Against Aereo

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  • by musikit ( 716987 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:47AM (#45107633)

    Living in Japan once in a while someone from NTT knocks on my door asking that i give them money for receiving the signal they broadcast.
    my teachers told me about this scam however i tell them two true things

    1. i dont have a TV. so im not paying for something i'm not receiving
    2. if you don't want me to get the signal then don't broadcast it to me.

    same should apply here. the TV stations broadcasted their signal in "cleartext"

    • Telling them not to broadcast it to you if they don't want you to have it free might sound eminently reasonable, but I suspect there is some law against you. The law isn't always reasonable.

  • Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:48AM (#45107637)
    So we have no rights to the content beamed into our homes, but they have the Right to Profit, even with a bad business model.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Milosch1 ( 969372 )
      Aereo has no right to profit from the significant money spent and effort made to deliver the broadcast signals in the first place. Not without compensation.
      • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @08:02AM (#45107803)
        That argument would apply to television sets themselves. Doesn't hold water.
        • Are there free television sets broadcast to peoples' homes that I'm missing out on?

          • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Informative)

            by bmo ( 77928 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:32AM (#45108349)

            No, but there are TV repeaters like the VCR Rabbit from the 1980s that are entirely legal, and do exactly what Areo do - rebroadcast taped or OTA (via the VCR's tuner) to another device.

            Why was it called the Rabbit? Because it multiplies the video signal.


            This is merely a VCR plus VCR Rabbit in a cabinet in a data-center paid for via subscription for the service. You could roll out your own rebroadcasting DVR and stick it in a closet or under your TV as part of your media system and pipe the signal back out to the Internet available to only your devices like this does.


      • Re:Rights? (Score:5, Informative)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @08:15AM (#45107837) Journal

        Aereo has no right to profit from the significant money spent and effort made to deliver the broadcast signals in the first place. Not without compensation.

        The courts have so far, begged to differ. In the now-famous CableVision case [], the court concluded that Cablevision's offer of a 'cloud DVR' product was legitimate: although Cablevision's hardware was making what would (otherwise) be illicit copies, it was operating as a direct extension of the customer's record and playback requests. Just a DVR; but with the hardware offsite rather than in a set top box.

        Aereo specifically designed their service to follow the same model: Aereo operates banks of antennas at their facilities, each customers is allocated(possibly dynamically; but always 1-to-1 at any given time) their own antenna and their own DVR/buffer storage, effectively creating an OTA set top box, just with the video being transported over an IP link, rather than a meter of HDMI cable, and user inputs also going over the internet rather than over IR.

        So far, the courts' response has been favorable (if sometimes bemused), in the various markets that Aereo has expanded into. They've been sued in every venue, and prevailed.

      • Aereo has no right to profit from the significant money spent and effort made to deliver the broadcast signals in the first place. Not without compensation.

        Why not? Merely because someone spends money and effort to do something doesn't mean that they're entitled to absolute control over it.

        If I put a lot of money and effort into improving my house and the lot it sits on, that increases the value of neighboring properties to some extent. But I'm not entitled to a cut, when my neighbor sells his house for more than he would've gotten, had I not done anything.

        Hell, you might as well say that the school in the state I grew up ought to get a share of the money I ma

        • Yeah, and it's very much prone to a slippery slope. Why should VCR manufacturers have the right to profit from providing systems that record TV shows for personal use? Why should newspapers be allowed to be profit from encouraging sales by providing TV listings? Why should websites be allowed to profit by posting reviews of TV shows.

          My understanding of the service is that one could not, as a New York resident, be watching Boston local TV without having a residential address there. Conceptually it's not that

      • by Skapare ( 16644 )

        Aereo leases you an antenna. They also provide you with an encrypted data feed to your antenna. As long as it is your free right to receive signals from an antenna, this is legal. And they encrypt the signal to be sure no one has tapped onto your antenna to copy the content you are receiving legally.

      • I'm sorry, this is a pathologically dense comment.

        The broadcasters have a fixed broadcast cost regardless of how many people are receiving it. A logical person (or entity) would want to amortize that cost over as many households as possible. They are 'compensated' by showing their advertisers how big their audience is. That's how BROADcast works.

        By your logic, antenna manufacturers and installers have no right to profit from broadcast signals either.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        They don't. They profit by renting customers in the broadcast area a good antenna.

        Do you believe it should be illegal to rent someone an antenna, DVR, and slingbox?

    • So we have no rights to the content beamed into our homes, but they have the Right to Profit, even with a bad business model.

      It's more vexing because it's a bad business model that also sits smack in the middle of some very nice spectrum. The broadcasters are stomping around like their right to profit was handed down by god, when they should be begging for the right to continue to exist in the context of more interesting uses.

      • The broadcasters are stomping around like their right to profit was handed down by god

        Well, it is Fox.

  • by RandomFactor ( 22447 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @06:54AM (#45107651)

    What the station owners fear more than Aereo is the possibility that cable and satellite providers, emboldened by Aereo, will set up their own antenna arrays to avoid paying retransmission fees.

    This is exactly WHY this should be allowed. If it is cheaper to setup your own antennas than pay someone else to do it then consumers are being overcharged for the service. Competition should be protected, not the opposite of it.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:00AM (#45107661)

    The real reason the broadcasters are doing this is because right now if you dont have an antenna (and many people dont, people in apartments and other shared dwellings, people with no light of sign to the transmission tower etc) the only way to get the OTA channels is to buy pay TV. And the pay TV operators pay a fair chunk of money to the OTA networks for rebroadcast rights.

    So what Aereo is doing is allowing a lot more people to get the OTA channels without going through the cable companies (which means the cable companies wont be willing to pay as much for the rebroadcast rights to the OTA networks)

    • Unfortunately, pissing off a special interest is probably going to get you nailed.

  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:03AM (#45107665)
    ... then why don't the big broadcaster get together and buy Aereo before it can - supposedly! - "do more damage". --- This whole thing reeks of the stink TPTB raised each time an Internet file-sharing tech came along. Instead of investing/going along with the "new wave in media consumption", TPTB always demonize whatever the latest content-delivery mechanism does. ---- So My Dear Big-Broadcasters: Put your money where your mouth is, and buy Aereo "for the good of the industry". --- I sometimes wish that the Big Media PTB would hire a CEO/CTO who is in his 20s - 30s only. I bet that CEO/CTO would go along with new trends in media distribution and consumption, instead of trying to shut them/shoot them down before they even get a chance to mature. My 2 Cents... As always, feel free to disagree. =)
    • ... then why don't the big broadcaster get together and buy Aereo before it can - supposedly! - "do more damage". --- This whole thing reeks of the stink TPTB raised each time an Internet file-sharing tech came along. Instead of investing/going along with the "new wave in media consumption", TPTB always demonize whatever the latest content-delivery mechanism does.

      Great question, and great advice for the industry.

      In another industry, the big publishers own and operate ... they could have been idiots and tried to stamp out internet subscription agents, but instead they became the biggest one. Duh.

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @08:15AM (#45107835) Homepage

      .. then why don't the big broadcaster get together and buy Aereo before it can - supposedly! - "do more damage"

      Three reasons:

      1) If you win in court, it prevents other people from trying to pull the same stunt
      2) It may well be cheaper to pay lawyers to litigate against Aereo instead of attempting to buy it.
      3) It just might not be for sale.

    • You didn't read the article, which I suppose is par for the course on slashdot. They don't care less about Aereo. They care about the precedent that anyone can take their programming free and resell it if you set up enough antennas. If Aereo can do it, anyone can.

      • by Skapare ( 16644 )

        The business model is leasing an antenna to a consumer, and providing the connection. They don't like the fact that this is legal.

        I'd like to have this kind of service, but not for TV.

  • by unitron ( 5733 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:06AM (#45107669) Homepage Journal

    ...than a case of how far away from your TV your DVR is allowed to be located.

    Which is to say the broadcasters are trying to use smoke and mirrors to cover up rent seeking.

    • No, it's not. You don't own the antenna. That's a potential legal distinction. And you don't own the DVR. That's another potential legal distinction.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So people living in rented accomodation (where they don't own the antenna) or who pay a monthly fee to rent their TV and set-top-box combo aren't allowed to legally watch TV either? Good to know.

      • If you're the broadcasters' lawyer, they're going to lose.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        But it is already obviously legal to rent an antenna and a DVR. Now it's just a question of how far away from your TV are you allowed to locate the DVR and antenna you rented.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:18AM (#45107687)

    I remember before there was FOX network.

    When they came along the big 3 had such a hissyfit at them for daring to do something different.

    And now here we are.. Fox is having the fit for someone else daring to do something different.

    Didn't take very long at all. 27 years to turn you into a stick up the ass 'we demand profits forever for doing the same thing' greedmonster.

    • The world just keeps on turning: Cable TV, as an industry, got its start in providing access to broadcast signals(by putting antennas in good locations and running coax to lousy ones). As usual, the broadcast guys cried hysterically about how free access to additional customers would ruin them, America, and apple pie.

      Unfortunately, it didn't, and the broadcasters are still around, while the cable guys have whitewashed their past as upstarts and are playing 'asshole incumbent' with the best o
    • It's not similar. Fox set up another television network that did not use the signals of the other 3 networks.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:34AM (#45107725) Homepage Journal

    with Fox claiming about Aereo, 'Make no mistake, Aereo is stealing our broadcast signal.'

    It's clearly not theft. Why is it not illegal for Fox to make this fraudulent claim in a public forum?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shentino ( 1139071 )

      Because Fox is a corporation and not an individual.

      • "Corporations are people, my friend."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Gryle ( 933382 )
          I'll believe that when I can have a corporation executed.
          • Well, have the government ever shut down a corporation? That'd count as execution*. It would be interesting to know what the capital punishment rate of corporations is to that of people.

            * The difference I suppose is that the soul of the corporation can be reincarnated into a similar body and even live in the same house. Realisation of the day - corporations are Hindu.

      • bah. accidental mod, should be +1
    • If pressed, I assumed that they would fall back on the 'mere abuse' allowance. If made in sufficiently absurd terms that a reasonable listener/reader would concluded that they are not meant literally (and, given the nontrivial difficulty of 'stealing' an unencrypted RF transmission, rather than merely receiving it, 'stealing' is unlikely to be literal) they can be treated as (legal) generic rubbishing of the opponent, rather than (illegal) false and defamatory claims.

      It's the difference between calling J
  • Constitution (Score:2, Interesting)

    by benjfowler ( 239527 )

    Since the Americans hold their Constitution so dear, almost to the level of Scripture itself, maybe a proper way to deal with corporate parasitism, is to make it unconstitutional to make any law which props up a failing business model or restricts competition in a free market.

    • sigh... not this misconception again.

      The constitution enumerates what the government is allowed to do. It does not enumerate what the government is forbidden to do.

      But thanks to over a century of people (like you) not knowing that.. the government does whatever it wants.
  • by grahammm ( 9083 )

    Maybe this is just a case of Not Invented Here, and the broadcasters are wishing that they had thought of, and implemented, first the idea of streaming live on the internet and having a PVR like service. The BBC has had this for some time allowied you to stream the currently broadcast programmes and more recently allowed you to pause and resume, as you can on a PVR. Other UK broadcasters have similar internet offerings, some even allowing you to watch certain programmes before they are broadcast on-air.

    • Re:NIH? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @07:51AM (#45107777) Homepage Journal

      no, not a NIH.

      they already invented getting paid for retransmitting the signal they broadcast.

      it's not the pvr. it's the retransmit of something they're sending out. aereo is cutting into their fat, fat margin on that service(you'd think that a ota free channel would only be aiming for highest possible viewers?? HAHAHAHA NOT SO! because this is bizarro world. they're shooting for the highest possible money extraction from cable companies and the cable companies customers.).

  • If you weren't suing them, I may not have heard of their service. Now that I'm aware of it, I will most likely sign up once they are in my area.

  • I'm fairly certain that it's actually the taxpayer that licenses the right to use these frequencies to the broadcaster in the first place. Shouldn't the taxpayer have some say in how they are subsequently used?
    • We do. They're periodically required to demonstrate that their license is in the public interest. The rules for demonstrating that their service is in the public interest are extremely liberal, but they do exist.

  • by DewDude ( 537374 ) on Saturday October 12, 2013 @10:06AM (#45108263)
    If you've ever had your provider get in to a deadlock contract with an OTA station; you'll realize retransmission fees are a scam.

    According to the law; a TV station has two options; they can negotiate a retransmission fee for a cable system; or invoke "must-carry", in which the cable provider is *required* to carry them. The station does not have to pay for a "must-carry" station; they are however required by law to carry them. That's bad for the cable company because they have to dedicate QAM space to a channel they may not want. However, if a cable provider negotiates a retransmission fee; they are allowed at that point to insert "local" ads over OTA stations.

    In reality; the stations are only screaming about *potential* loss of profits here. The real losers are the local advertisers; who are paying the bills to keep the station's OTA signal running. Thier ads will only get seen by people with OTA; and those times when a local company isn't inserting ads over airtime.

    This is why it's common in some areas for a cable/satellite provider to lose the right to carry a local channel. The station wants more money to reach it's demographic; and when a deal cannot be struck, the channel becomes unavailable. If it's a network affiliate; you lose that network entirely. FCC laws prohibit an "outside" station to be piped in to another market. Ironically; this law was made to protect local advertisers, ensuring they had a better chance to be seen in a market where their ads are already possibly being covered over with whatever promotion your provider is running this month.

    The ruling that Aereo is legal was upheld by an appellate court already. They found the place-shifting technology (which is what this is); did not constitute public performance. Likewise; since there was an individual receiver and antenna for each user; there was no breaking of any law.

    A2B TV does a similar thing; only with satellite TV. And they've even changed since I first found them. Used to be they'd get you set up with a cable TV account at whatever provider was local to the datacenter, along with a slingbox and "hosting space"; thier new model seems to use satellite TV and you have to send them a receiver. I own a Slingbox (two of them actually); and it's perfectly legal to have them hooked up to my TV's; of course I do pay for a TV service. But what about the Slingbox I sent to my friend in Texas with an OTA receiver so I could watch my favorite football team? Legally, it's my receiver and my hardware; so it *still* falls under placeshifting; and it's still not public retransmission.

    Networks are going to complain and bitch because they're "getting thier business model stolen"; they seem to forget thier original business model was providing a service for free that was funded by advertisers; that's shifted in to a service that's still provided free, but paid for by cable and satellite companies. I can't blame advertisers for wanting to pay next to nothing; would *you* want to pay top-dollar for advertising knowing the majority of your demographic on cable or satellite might not see it? Of course not.

    Again, it's just the networks sitting there looking at the potential profits they're losing because a lousy business model they created failed; one that was doomed for failure in the first place. What were they doing all those years when analog C-Band was still dominate; and they did not scramble the network fee? All those people were watching network TV without local inserted ads. What were they doing before the 1992 act and cable providers could literally pipe in any OTA channel their antenna farm could pick up; you know, back when the FCC mandated providers had to carry locals. Complicate the matter by the fact the FCC has allowed cable broadcasters to begin encrypting OTA feeds; which were once required to be left unencrypted.

    The real issue is if they get this declared illicit; what's to stop them going further? They could begin saying multi-room DVR is illegal; worse yet, they coul
  • ... shut down OTA TV, then I'd be happy.

  • Oddly, I can find anything I want on line...and often the regular TV shows are streamed BY THE NETWORK, not any "arr" type websites. You can don eye-patch and watch anything you want, though. I don't care about sports, which is what this is probably really about.

The best defense against logic is ignorance.