TiVo Releases A 'Legal' Version Of Aereo, Called Roamio, Proving That Aereo Really Was About Cable Length
from the wherefore-art-thou-roamio dept
TiVo has released a new product called “Roamio” which looks suspiciously like the recently-declared-infringing Aereo. Roamio lets users “record, store and playback” over the air programming. Just like Aereo. There’s just one distinction — and it apparently makes all the difference in the world: Roamio’s cable length is a lot shorter. As David Post notes, while Aereo and Roamio’s services are nearly identical, the length of the cable changes the legal dynamic:
I?m pretty confident that the new TiVo box steers clear of any copyright problems ? not the first time, and probably not the last time, that our too-complex and illogical copyright law draws opposite conclusions when applied to functionally equivalent technology. The new Roamio is the precise analogue of the Sony Betamax ? just a box allowing customers to record that to which they already had free access, and to play those recordings back to themselves ? the distribution of which, the Court declared way back in 1984 in the seminal Sony v. Universal case, did not constitute copyright infringement. Aereo tried to make this argument (that it was just a Betamax dressed up in new technological garb) but failed ? in part because it was supplying not only the recording/playback capability, but the antenna itself, to customers. This seemed to be important to the Court, because it made it more difficult for Aereo to argue that it was just recording material the customer already ?owned?; no, the Court said, Aereo was actually going out and getting this content for the customer, and then recording it, which took it out from under the Sony no-infringement umbrella. More importantly, but sticking a separate box in each user?s home, TiVo avoids the charge that was fatal to Aereo, with its centralized facility: that it is ?publicly performing? the copyrighted programs in the OTA broadcasts. It?s close to impossible to argue that TiVo is somehow publicly performing copyrighted works by selling these boxes ? whatever ?performances? take place inside users? home are pretty clearly non-infringing ?private? performances.
In short — just as we’ve pointed out from the beginning — the only basis on which Aereo might be infringing is that the copyright law is different if you have a short cable between the antenna and your screen (TiVo) or a long cable (Aereo). It seems somewhat ridiculous that the length of the cable could possibly change the analysis of a copyright case, but welcome to today’s nonsensical copyright regime.
Of course, Post notes that the broadcasters still might try to sue anyway, and that does seem likely. Remember, they’re already suing DISH over its advanced DVR technologies. And the networks actually are trying to claim that the Aereo ruling helps them in that case (though it’s a very weak argument). So there’s a half decent chance they’ll sue Tivo over Roamio as well.
It seems fairly clear at this point: the broadcasters have decided that any innovation that lets the public watch TV in a better way must be an existential threat that should be sued out of existence. It’s felony interference with a business model, and tragically, copyright law seems to be the most popular and distorted tool for those claims.