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The Courts Media The Media United States

Supreme Court To Hear Aereo Case 211

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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  • by Skraut ( 545247 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:41PM (#45922887) Journal

    My impression was that you had to be in the broadcast area for a TV station to be able to get it from Aereo. You con't just decide you wanted stations from across the country. This is what keeps them from just being a TV streaming service, they're literally just rebroadcasting it to people who could under normal circumstances already get the content, and making it more convenient.

    My parents live about 50 miles from a relatively large city where Aereo is "Coming soon" and apparently waiting for these legal issues to be resolved before they go live there. They used to have a 65 ft tower and a powered antenna in order to be able to receive over the air channels. In the past 20 years they've switched to cable, and the tower rusted and fell down. Now that they're looking to cut the cable, Aereo looks like a very attractive option for them since it would save the cost of setting up another antenna tower. The only reason they want the local channel is to see their nightly news.

  • Re:I'm torn... (Score:2, Informative)

    by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:43PM (#45922909)

    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?

    See my other posting; commercial on broadcast television are typically a small percentage national brands, with the remainder being local advertisers within the broadcast area. 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 where the ads are applicable, and only then if those viewers are not viewing via Aereo (unless they are wiring Nielsen boxes into the receiver units).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:01PM (#45923031)

    I just looked at the Aereo website, and it appears that they are actually restricting the service to users who live in the same metro area as the Aereo antenna farm in question. If things are as they seem, it impossible for people in Australia to register for Aereo, and the local ads remain relevant.

  • by OrtCloud ( 1684696 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:36PM (#45923235)
    Not sure where you're getting your information, but I'm an Aereo subscriber in Houston - The people living in Sidney Australia can't watch Aereo USA - you have to live in Houston to receive Houston stations - I can't watch stations in L.A., New York, Chicago, etc,... - only Houston (they check zip codes & monitor IP addresses)
  • by poetmatt ( 793785 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:54PM (#45923313) Journal

    There's nothing to "steal":

    it's a digital product and it's also a public broadcast. This would be like saying I'm stealing from slashdot by posting the slashdot logo somewhere else. Give me a fucking break with your leap of logic.

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

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:50PM (#45923671)

    They are no more leeches than Cable companies and other rebroadcasters and bundlers.

    My guess would be that the net number of viewers of OTA television drop as a result of Aereo

    Since each of their customers are renting a physical antenna from Aereo Each viewer is an OTA viewer: the OTA signal is received by the physical antenna they are renting, and then encapsulated for streaming over the internet.

    There is no additional cost for the OTA broadcaster --- in fact, at some point, if all the OTA viewers are using Aereo, then the broadcaster could probably make a deal with Aereo to streamline their delivery, and reduce the number of kilowatts they need.

    Since Aereo is playing TV unmodified --- the viewers do see all the ads

    Since Aereo are only allowing viewers to join who are in the area of their antennas, and they restrict access based on IP addresses that geolocate to the broadcast area, they are not providing out-of-area viewers access to content.

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

    by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @10:59PM (#45923713) Homepage

    Just to clarify, Aereo's service has been found not to be illegal by federal trial and appellate courts. However, rival services that are claimed to operate similarly have lost court cases in other jurisdictions; the circuit split is part of the justification for cert.

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

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @11:22PM (#45923841)

    I don't see how Aereo is any different than those cable providers who just were retransmitting from an antenna, and those cable providers have to ask permission.

    A few years ago, there was a precedent set by Cablevision that no retransmission consent required For a customer that rents an antenna.

    In ABC's petition [amazonaws.com]. They take issue with the fact, that Aereo is using a massive number of tiny coin-cell sized very inexpensive antennas mounted on a PCB

    Each customer gets an antenna, but they are dynamically assigned. Also, each customer's stream gets transcoded and saved to a customer-specific directory on shared hard drives.

    So at some point the customer's stuff is getting blended in some sense; the customer isn't renting 100% of the delivery infrastructure, only the antenna and some disk space used to receive their content.

    One of the arguments before the court is their system is engineered as a Rube Goldberg-like contrivance whose sole purpose is to attempt to circumvent the intent of Congress and the copyright law; in regards to, the requirement for consent to retransmission, AND the exclusive rights to public performance.

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

    by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <slashdot3NO@SPAMjustconnected.net> on Saturday January 11, 2014 @01:04AM (#45924243)

    That's basically my point - the jurisprudence is this absurd mess because the law doesn't make much sense.

    I had this long paragraph that I elided because it was boring, but the gist of it was: Let's say you put an antenna on your roof - fine. What if you have land at the top of the hill that's blocking your reception, and you put the antenna there and run a cable down? Fine as well. What if you and your neighbor split the cost of a better antenna, and you run the cable to both houses? What if a whole block does this? What if you make people pay a subscription for the upkeep of this mess of coax?

    Eventually the line is crossed and it becomes illegal, but there's no obvious place to put that line. One answer is "when there's profit", but there's no legal basis for that since nothing they're doing is illegal in the absence of the Cable Act, which doesn't seem to have anything to do with profits (IANAL, of course).

    You (and me and the judges so far) have this mental model of people having antennas on their roofs, which is clearly OK. The law is clear that cable companies have to get permission, but the law isn't particularly good at excluding the other cases. Check out the definitions from the 1982 law [publicaccess.org], which are reused in the 1992 law - it looks like if you set up an antenna for 2 single-occupant houses (there is an exclusion only for MDUs), you'd have a 'cable system' and therefore be a 'cable operator'. The ruling will probably hinge on fairly boring and narrow interpretations of those terms - namely, is Aereo a cable system as defined (intentionally vaguely) by the law? Because if they are, it's clear that they are subject to the retransmission consent rule.

    Also, CBS can kiss my ass. They're pretty much the only ones trying to push this crap.

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