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

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @07:59PM (#45922549)

    ...and I'm sure my opinion will be torn to shreds for it.

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

    Broadcast television got a pretty sweetheart deal: All of this spectrum is yours, just give us a little public interest news every day. The TV broadcasters use their ownership of the airwaves to produce content that'll get us to watch their sponsor's commercials.

    While there are obviously other ways to time and location-shift television, Aereo is essentially a leech on the system. They give nothing back to the content producers. It's hard to root for them unless your only goal is the collapse of broadcast television.

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

    by mythosaz ( 572040 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:24PM (#45922747)

    My argument is that I'm conflicted.

    Aereo's business plan is "stream NBC over the internet and get paid for it."

    It doesn't pass the sniff-test of what's kosher.

  • by djhertz ( 322457 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:32PM (#45922795)

    I live within the broadcast range of Boston but due to a hill I'm on (and weather) I only get one or two channels at best. I like to watch American football and having the signal drop in the middle of a play just stinks. Aereo allows me to watch (and pause/record) shows I would normally get fed up with and just not watch. It's a great service to mesh with Netflix/Amazon Streaming/etc. since you get sports and live news. We really like it.

    As to why the broadcasters are against Aereo I guess there could be concern about timeshifting, etc. But if I did get solid reception OTA I could just use any DVR to do pause and recording, or even a VCR (ok not a VCR, no TV is worth using one of those again).

    Overall I see Aereo, Netflix, etc. as the future. Much like mp3s and digital streaming are the media for music. It would probably be best for the broadcasters to try and figure out how to best make it all work. I still don't understand why a broadcaster would not want Aereo to 'repeat' their signal, w/o it I would not be able to watch the shows, hence not view the commercials.

  • by American Patent Guy ( 653432 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:32PM (#45922797) Homepage

    ABC does not own the content that it broadcasts: it licenses it from the original authors/producers. That license permits it to distribute the content over the airwaves with the payment of a fee.

    Think about it this way. Suppose I wrote a play. I would have both (1) a right to prevent others from copying my written work (the script) and (2) a right to prevent others from performing that play if they got a copy of the script. If I permit a playhouse to perform the play, that playhouse can limit the viewing of the licensed performance to those inside the building. Here, ABC is broadcasting its content to the public: it's like a playhouse that has no walls that anyone from the street can enjoy. The playhouse's recourse is to perform the play inside an enclosed building, and ABC's recourse is arguably to distribute its content to those under contract, which it cannot do over the public airwaves.

    Now, if ABC owns the original rights in what it broadcasts, the story is different. In that case it can sue as the holder as the copyright, rather than the holder of merely a license. Even then, arguably ABC has granted everyone with access to broadcasted content an implied license to view it, and forward the content to another location as apparently Aereo does. What Aereo would then be doing is merely a "fair use" of that broadcasted content, which is specifically permitted by the copyright statutes.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:39PM (#45922871)

    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.

    Aero addresses this the same way Slingbox does. They argue that by having one physical receiver per active subscribed user, that they are not in violation; this is the same way it would work if you had a Slingbox at home in your NYC apartment, and were traveling in another country. The major difference is that advertisers that you see for NY products on your Slingbox have a reasonable expectation that you will be returning to the regional purchase market where your Slingbox is located at some point in the future, after your trip is over, while there's no similar expectation that you'll go to the roof where the Aereo receivers are located at some point, and then proceed to "buy local".

    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 ?

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

    Commercials tend to be related to a regional market (i.e. you are unlikely to have a Big-O tires or Chick-fil-A or Trader Joe's or other locale centric food chain specific to the U.S. in Australia). Because of this, advertisers in the NY market don't see any benefit to ABC stations streamed outside the NY market, since they aren't applicable in remote markets; the thing that bothers ABC about this is ads tend to get paid by region, an by Nielsen ratings for the broadcast station within the region. So they don't get a higher income for their licensed content for their franchisees.

    Assuming they could get franchisees in the local markets in Australia to pick up and license ABC programming, then there would be advertising for the local market in the broadcast area, and they'd see income for those programs within that region.

    So Aereo breaks their regional marketing models by moving content + advertisements. This also devalues their properties, unless they agree to simultaneous release in various regions, and it erodes their leverage position of getting a franchisee in another region where there is no franchisee, because they are unable to hold them hostage to in demand content, which would (effectively) blackmail the local stations into taking a full content package, rather than one or two programs, and would cause income sharing for regional advertising back to the parent network (ABC).

    This effect is, incidentally, the same reason that various networks have been going after cable and dish networks to get a larger programming package payout (with the exception that the cable and dish networks do regional advertising substitution on the fly into program packages, rather than taking all the advertising from the network). This was the basis of the CBS (network)/Time Warner (cable provider) dispute last year: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/09/02/cbs-time-warner-resolve-dispute/ [dailyfinance.com]

    If Aereo wins, the networks are going to need to revise their business model, so the most likely outcome is actually that there will be a loss for Aero, with a time period for them and the networks to agree to an implementation of a fetch-model for advertising, at which point Aero doesn't end up actually losing, and the network gets part of

  • by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:52PM (#45922987)
    These lawsuits against Aereo are about money, and really not even about getting money from Aereo but from cable operators. Networks and their affiliate stations pull in huge amounts of cash from rebroadcast deals. The Aereo model threatens to cut that cash flow off. Several cable companies are already looking to copy Aereo and do a one-antenna-per-customer model to provide local stations, and avoid paying carriage fees. That's billions of dollars the networks could lose. That is why they want to kill this model dead and quickly.
  • by real gumby ( 11516 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @08:59PM (#45923019)

    If you read the plaintiff's pleading before the court (quoted here [arstechnica.com]):

    The decision below has far-reaching adverse consequences for the broadcast television industry, making the need for this Court’s review urgent and acute. The decision already is having a transformative effect on the industry. Industry participants will not and cannot afford to wait for something of this magnitude to percolate before responding to new business realities. And once Aereo’s technology is entrenched and the industry has restructured itself in response, a ruling by this Court in Petitioners’ favor will come too late. The disruption threatened by Aereo will produce changes that will be difficult, if not impossible, to reverse.

    They are explicitly saying "our business is changing and we want the courts to stop things because creative destruction [wikipedia.org] is unfair." They are not even pretending that they are trying to do something in the public's interest; they are nakedly asking the court to save the entrenched interest. Pathetic assholes.

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

    by Hamsterdan ( 815291 ) on Friday January 10, 2014 @09:40PM (#45923253)

    Why? I'm running OTA on Media Center and can stream to other devices. The broadcasters just have to adapt to modern times. In fact, most of the times I'm watching TV on my computer either from its tuner or by streaming from Media Center. My 60$ ATSC tuner can record to a USB key. In a format that is readable by a computer, my mom's TV, and such.


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

    by Chibi Merrow ( 226057 ) <mrmerrow@@@monkeyinfinity...net> on Saturday January 11, 2014 @02:32AM (#45924545) Homepage Journal

    Look up the Cablevision decision, where the supreme court ruled such a remote DVR service was legal. Then think about what you said.

    Aereo was designed specifically with obeying the letter of the law as set by Cablevision.

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