Comcast's CEO: As Long As I Keep Saying Aereo Is Illegal, Sooner Or Later Someone Will Believe Me, Right?

from the right? dept

Aereo, makers of a system to let people stream network TV to their computer by setting up individual antennas for each customer (a process that is technologically insane, but legally required to stay legal), has come out on the winning side of both court rulings to date, including the one at the appelate level. While the various cases are still ongoing, you’d think that the TV networks would at least acknowledge this fact. But, of course, they don’t.

In an interview, Comcast (owner of NBC Universal) is still adamant that it’s plain as day that Aereo must be illegal.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told PBS in an interview this week that broadband live TV streaming company Aereo is breaking the law by refusing to pay retransmission-consent fees. “Here comes a company that says, ‘I don’t want to pay that fee.’ Well, I understand that, but I don’t think that’s the law of the land,” Roberts told PBS NewsHour in a segment about the future of television.

It’s funny, of course, because while he doesn’t think that’s the law of the land, it appears that both the district and appelate courts in the 2nd circuit actually do think it’s the law of the land, and they’re the ones that count. Of course, the problem is that Roberts is pretending this is about refusing to pay retransmission-consent fees. It’s not. It’s a question of whether or not the copyright situation changes based on the length of your cable. Everything that Aereo does for a consumer is perfectly legal if they were to setup the same basic contraption in their home (get an antenna, receive over-the-air network TV, connect a Slingbox or similar device to the feed, then access the feed via the internet). The only difference is that Aereo is setting this stuff up itself on its own property. That means, the real difference is the length of the cord between the antenna and the TV. If you set it up at home, it’s short. If Aereo sets it up, it’s long. The networks want you to believe that this longer cable suddenly means that retransmission fees need to be paid. Most people seem to recognize that this is ridiculous.

But not Roberts. To him, it’s obviously illegal, despite the fact that two courts have already ruled otherwise.

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Companies: aereo, comcast, nbc universal

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Comments on “Comcast's CEO: As Long As I Keep Saying Aereo Is Illegal, Sooner Or Later Someone Will Believe Me, Right?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Cable compaines were built on this exact concept, run cable from antennas on their property to the home of people out of the range of broadcast. The Over-The-Air broadcasters fought it with the same reasoning and lost, hence cable companies got to compete with OTA. Then came ads from OTA companies calling cable “Pay TV.”

I suppose a “Pot, meet kettle” is obligatory by now right?

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Vapid little AC embiggens out_of_the_blue!

Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2013 @ 2:42pm
TIL out_of_the_blue is Comcast’s CEO

^^^ This comment has been flagged by the NON-community.

For Violation of TOS (Truly Overweening Stupidity)

BARKING RAT: Basically A Rat Kept Inbred Nine Generations, Results Are Terrible

Snarky Necessary Against Random Kids Yapping; self-defense by out_of_the_blue, fighting yapping with innovation!

jameshogg says:

For your interest:

Slate recently put out an article on how Luddites get it wrong just about every time. I thought it would be relevant here:

The only thing the Luddites ARE right about is how there can be temporary unemployment effects as a result of workers having to learn new trades.

And I posted this comment to go with:

“So don?t blame technology for persistent unemployment.”

Tell that to the bloody MPAA. Copyright philosophy is one of the greatest unspoken Luddisms in economics. It makes the utopian claim that a service with a free-rider problem is in need of property distortion into goods instead, as if second-hand copies somehow do not create a free-rider problem. Assurance contracts, the real answer to the creator’s free-rider problem, suffers from no kind of Luddism whatsoever because it treats the property correctly as a service, not goods. In fact, IndieGoGo and Kickstarter can cheer for joy when the internet becomes 10,000 times faster and more anonymous as it allows more virtual “tickets” to be booked much faster, while the deluded “pirate hunters” with their negativity towards any kind of communications technology can only throw a Luddite tantrum at such a technological advancement.

out_of_the_blue says:

The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

It’s only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That’s grifting. You can’t actually make what Aereo is doing legal, it’s just by bad analogy not illegal. But it should be illegal: rights of producers must always come first.

Usually, Mike pretends to be against middlemen, but when they can “monetize” someone else’s content in “innovative” ways: as with file hosts or this small scale grifting, then he’s fine with middlemen.

Actual user testimonial: Techdirt helps me think clearly because provides an obviously wrong reference point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

Middlemen, another word you don’t understand. If the producers made their stuff available in legal ways that was easy to access then there would be no need to use an alternative service.

Mike isn’t against middlemen anyways, he’s against legacy gatekeepers. Middlemen have a place, legacy gatekeepers just try to abuse the law in order to maintain status quo.

PopeRatzo (profile) says:

Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

It’s only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That’s grifting.

That’s exactly what Comcast was for years. They didn’t produce anything, just rebroadcast.

Please explain to me why, if I get something on my TV, why I shouldn’t be able to watch it on my computer?

If we want to start a list of everything that “should be illegal” we’re going to have a very long list, including charging >$100/month for television content. Including having a duopoly in almost all markets. Including having awful customer service when there really aren’t any options.

Cable television is the ultimate grift. And it’s been going on for decades. Maybe you’re not old enough to remember the promises the cable industry was making when they were originally chartered by the government to use public land: “No commercials!” “Public Access!” “Interactive TV!” “Local programming!” “Accountability!” “Reasonable rates!”

Cable television was supposed to be the network that was going to tie us all together, in the way the Internet (government) actually did. In most of those cases, cable television ended up doing exactly the opposite of what they promised. They actually killed a lot of local programming, public access, etc. What could possibly be less interactive than cable television 2013? Who would describe cable rates as “reasonable”?

Any conversation involving “grifting” that involves cable television, needs to put cable television right at the top.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

You do recognize that you are calling a disturbingly large propertion of the people in the world grifters here? Furthermore, what constitutes “a product of its own”? Comcast has some equipment and some contact to channels and provides leasing deals. Since the customers could have bought the equipment and contacted the TV-stations themself, it seems rather close to what you define as a grift in that end too.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

It’s only a middleman between producers and consumers, has no products of its own. That’s grifting.

By that definition, Comcast is also a grifter. So is almost every cable channel in existence. So are the major TV networks and most of radio. So is any news outlet who reports stories from the wire services.

That’s a pretty motley crew of grifters. I would think you’d condemn them all out of hand. Why are you favoring one grifter (Comcast) over another (Aereo)?

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: The basic FACT is that grifter Aereo is stealing content.

By that logic, every individual house with a TV antenna on the roof is also stealing content. The fact that they’re receiving and using the content as intended by the content producer would be irrelevant.

In a business that sells advertising space to make a profit, you’d think that having MORE eyeballs watching would be a GOOD thing.

Peter Voveris (profile) says:

Retransmission fees for over the air broadcast television is a stupid idea in the first place, the network is making its money from the advertising. I am not sure when this fee got approved, but I seem to recall at the start of cable television they were begging to be included and at one time cable operators had to include all signals in an area.

Anonymous Coward says:

LOL @ the Techdirt stylings of Pirate Mike.

Mike pretends like the two district court cases didn’t happen that found legally-analogous Aereokiller infringing. Mike pretends like the idiotic length-of-the-court argument both makes sense and reflects the actual law that actually applies.

Another brain-dead puff piece by the internet’s biggest anti-copyright-crusading-but-too-ashamed-to-admit-it scaredy cat.

James Burkhardt says:

Re: Re:

Except it actually isn’t legally analogous. Aereokiller does things differently, not ensuring they hold to Cablevision. Moreover, fucknuttery on the part of Aerokiller’s owner both hurts its case and suggsts the entire point is to set bad precident.

Oh, and Aerokiller lost in courts that disagree with cablevision. Specifically, Aero Lost in courts who believe that the Location of the DVR changes the legality of the offering. Given previous SCOTUS rulings, this is not likely to go well in the long run.

Oh, and the logic for overturning Remote DVRs also outlaws the slingbox, whose use fails to meet the standards for a ‘public broadcast’.

Wolfy says:

In my opinion, the broadcasters are “throwing away” their signals. They are transmitting them out into the “ether”, with no expectation of payment… (that’s already been done by the advertisers.)

If someone were to collect, and deliver them to a third interested party, that’s no concern of the one who is throwing away the signal to begin with.

They should be happy, because their signal is being put before even more eyeballs, which is what the advertisers are paying for to begin with.

Anonymous Coward says:

i have to admit that i am aghast at the way the courts have sided with Aereo. normally, they would have shot down a company like this, if for no illegal reason, than having the audacity of putting in a challenge against the norm! as for this CEO, his stance is going to be one whereby he keeps going back to court until, like he says, someone agrees with him. the number that disagree with him will be irrelevant. it’s the same with all sections of the entertainment industries. when they get a defeat, they just keep going back to court, refusing to accept that they lost and never doubting that they can appeal, until they get a win. as soon as that happens, they kick up joe fuck when the company that has had multiple wins up to that point, wants to go back to court again, having lost just once!

Ninja (profile) says:

Hopefully this denial will set an important precedent. You know, just give them enough cable so they can hang themselves. Oh wait..

The insanity won’t go away though. As the article itself notes, they could do their jobs simply installing a single antenna and replicating the signals but a utterly broken copyright law has them setting up an insane system. Of course in a world where douchebags didn’t run the copyright show they would be providing that content via streaming themselves.

Rocco Maglio says:

Welcome to a new America

Brian Roberts does not need to care about what the laws are since he politically connected. Obama has stopped by his house on several occasions when he was in Martha’s Vineyard, he controls NBC, and he is a major political fund raiser. America is becoming a country where political connections are more important than accumulated earnings or the law.

Ben (user link) says:

Oh the irony

I had to laugh during the PBS interview. The entire cable industry (Comcast included) got their start pirating OTA signals for retransmission; now that they’ve got the market cornered of course they don’t want any new competition.

Along comes Aereo, and the pot starts calling the kettle black. Too bad for Roberts this isn’t some upstart that they can just swat with lawyers. So long as Aereo has backing from major capitalists like Barry Diller, they’re not going anywhere but up.

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