“The question is, do they want to be broadcasters? If you want to be a broadcaster, you are required to program in public interest in convenience free to air.”
The United States Supreme has begun hearing arguments over whether or not streaming company Aereo can continue to share broadcast content with customers without paying a fee to broadcasters. The case is American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc..
The nation’s highest court has now heard oral arguments over whether the online TV streaming service infringes on the copyrights of broadcasters. If you are not familiar with Aereo, it is an ingenious company backed by billionaire Barry Diller. Aereo allows subscribers in 11 different U.S. cities to pay a monthly fee of $8 to stream and record broadcast television shows directly to mobile devices. How this happens is very important to the case. Aereo only grabs over-the-air the signals which are already free to the public. When a subscriber logs onto Aereo’s website to pick out a program to watch or record, Aereo assigns them a specific, dime-sized antenna. The subscriber has their own specific antenna and is renting that exclusive antenna as long as they are a subscriber. Why is that important? Because if you live in any city in the United States with broadcast programming, you can do the very same thing yourself with a digital antenna connected to your TV.
Over the past few months, a group of American broadcasters have insisted that Aereo is stealing their content and must pay a fee in order to rebroadcast their content. Already, lower courts have agreed with Aereo’s case that the company is taking free over the air content and providing access to it to the public.
The big question before SCOTUS: Whether Aereo “publicly performs” a copyrighted television program when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet.
Aereo insists that it does not “publicly” perfom copyrighted shows, but gives private access to each individual subscriber through their unique antenna.
What should be an argument between private companies however, has not stayed that way, as the U.S. Government has been granted permission to argue on behalf of broadcasters.
According to Deadline the Supreme Court has granted a request from the Deputy Solicitor General’s to appear during Aereo hearing in support of the broadcasters,
“Motion of the Deputy Solicitor General for leave to participate in oral argument as amicus curiae and for divided argument GRANTED,” said the SCOTUS yesterday. The granting of the motion comes more than a month and a half after the federal government’s top legal office filed a brief supporting the broadcasters in their showdown with the Barry Diller-backed streaming service.
Already, Justices of the high court seem to want to rule against Aereo. To do so, could harm streaming and cloud services such as Google Inc, Microsoft Corp, DropBox Inc and Box Inc. Which could be why Justice Sonya Sotomayor is claiming that Aereo should simply be classified as a cable company.
“I read it and say why aren’t they a cable company?” says Sotomayor.
The reason… Aereo is NOT a cable company. Aereo is a subscription antenna. If the company were forced to be considered a cable company, it would also be forced to pay re-transmission fees.
Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia makes the case to CNN’s Brian Stelter, saying do broadcasters want to broadcast or not?
“The question is, do they want to be broadcasters? If you want to be a broadcaster, you are required to program in public interest in convenience free to air. Anybody with an antenna can pick it up. I don’t understand why the location of the antenna changes that equation in any which way, shape or form.”