Copyright Office To Aereo: Quack All You Want, We Don't Think You're A Cable Service
from the quack-quack dept
As we’ve been discussing, following the Supreme Court’s decision that said Aereo was a cable service solely because it looked like one, and therefore had to pay retransmission fees, we warned that this would lead to a legal mess. Some people insisted Aereo could just start paying retransmission fees, but we wondered how that would fit with the ruling in the ivi case, that said internet companies didn’t qualify for statutory licenses on retransmission fees, because internet companies are not cable companies.
Aereo made a filing with the court that basically said that given the Supreme Court’s “look like a duck” test finding it a cable service, it seemed pretty clear that the ivi ruling was overturned, and thus it now wants a statutory license to pay retransmission fees. In addition to telling the court this, Aereo also filed with the Copyright Office its application to be eligible for those fees, leading the Copyright Office to send back a somewhat passive aggressive letter saying that it will “accept” the letter “on a provisional basis” but refuses to “process” it because, in its opinion, the ivi ruling means Aereo cannot be a cable company and nothing about the Supreme Court calling Aereo a cable company changes its opinion of that fact.
In the view of the Copyright Office, internet retransmissions of broadcast television fall outside the scope of the Section 111 license. Significantly, in WPIX, Inc. v. ivi Inc…. the Second Circuit deferred to and agreed with the Office’s interpretation of Section 111. As explained in that case, Section 111 is meant to encompass “localized retransmission services” that are “regulated as cable systems by the FCC.” … We do not see anything in the Supreme Court’s recent decision in American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo Inc…. that would alter this conclusion.
So… despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruled, pretty directly, that Aereo matches all the important criteria of a cable company to be covered by the laws that regulate cable company retransmissions, the Copyright Office is going to standby the ivi ruling that internet companies can’t be cable companies. As reader Gwiz pointed out last week, it’s Schrödinger’s CATV. When the Supreme Court looks at it for the purposes of making it infringement, it’s a CATV. When the Copyright Office looks at for the sake of actually paying those retrans fees, it’s no longer a CATV.
What’s perhaps even more troubling here is that there is no reason for the Copyright Office to weigh in here. As is noted in the letter, this issue is currently going to be determined in the courts, and the Copyright Office doesn’t need to do anything. But, instead, for no clear reason, it decided to offer its opinion and explain why it won’t “process” the letter. Either way, we’re left in a situation in which the Supreme Court’s ridiculous “quacks like a duck” test is creating confusion.