Upstart Aereo service could change the way world watches TV. Supreme Court will now decide.
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
4/23/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Aereo, a tiny, TV streaming service that lets users get their favorite programs through rented antennas is accused of violating broadcasters' copyrights. The Supreme Court appears hesitant in deciding the ABC vs. Aereo lawsuit. The decision could very well reshape broadcast and cable industries.
Based in Brooklyn, Aereo lets "tens of thousands of paying strangers" to watch the programs they wish without paying any copyright fees to broadcasters," according to an attorney hired to defend the broadcasting industry.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Based in Brooklyn, Aereo lets "tens of thousands of paying strangers" to watch the programs they wish without paying any copyright fees to broadcasters," according to an attorney hired to defend the broadcasting industry. It's feared that if Aereo emerges triumphant, cable and satellite companies may decide to stream their own signals in the same way Aereo does - sidestepping licensing fees to the broadcasters.
Most legal experts were confident that SCOTUS would rule against Aereo's service as a violation of copyright laws - but that was no longer certain during the hour-long argument. Several justices admitted they were struggling for the right answer.
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The broadcast industry relies heavily on a provision in the copyright law that a television broadcast may not be aired "publicly" without the permission of the broadcaster. Cable and satellite companies pay fees to broadcast networks to transmit those signals to their subscribers. Aereo does not.
Attorneys are arguing whether a customer of Aereo's service is receiving a "public" performance of a copyrighted broadcast or instead is watching a private show at home.
Aereo's attorney says his client's service was like the videocassette recorders that became popular in the 1980s, which allowed homeowners to make copies of programs to be viewed at home.
Aereo "could rent DVRs in Brooklyn, and it would be the same situation," Washington attorney David Frederick said, adding that Aereo's tiny antennas "pick up over-the-air signals that are free to the public."
Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, representing ABC and other broadcasters says that Aereo had devised "a gimmick" to make money by sending TV signals to thousands of paying customers. This large-scale streaming is clearly a "public performance," he said, not a private one at home.
Furthermore, Justice Department attorney Malcolm Stewart said the government agreed with the broadcasters that Aereo was violating copyright laws by transmitting broadcast signals without a license.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Aereo had designed its system to "circumvent" the restrictions in the copyright law, but that did not necessarily mean it was illegal. A decision is expected to be rendered by late June.
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