Aereo: Has No One Noticed It's Insane That We're Being Accused Of Infringing BECAUSE We Carefully Followed The Cablevision Precedent?

from the ridiculous-copyright-fights dept

The Aereo copyright fight continues. As you may recall, Aereo is a startup that is trying to let people stream free over-the-air broadcasting over the internet. To stay within the framework of copyright law, they've set up the most inefficient system possible, in which each subscriber gets his or her own antenna, connected to a streaming device. From a technical standpoint, this is insane. But, from the legal standpoint, it's required. Aereo won the first round, as the district court refused to grant an injunction. That fight quickly jumped to the appeals court, where Aereo has filed its main brief, which basically says "Cablevison, Cablevision, Cablevision, Cablevision, Cablevision, Cablevision, Cablevision..."

If you don't follow this stuff closely, a few years back, there was a ruling in the same appeals court, that found that Cablevision's remote DVR system was basically legal. As we noted at the time, it was the right decision, though for ridiculously convoluted reasons, which really showed just how ill-prepared copyright law is for modern technology and innovation. That ruling, however, is a key one that Aereo is relying on to argue that its remote streaming system is legal. So its 90+ page filing is basically page after page of Aereo trying to explain why it's just like Cablevision.

For the most part, I find its arguments compelling -- as they also clearly highlight how the broadcasters are basically looking to have a veto on innovations they don't like, and why that doesn't serve the public interest. They highlight that the broadcasters argument seems to be that copyright law is designed to protect them, rather than the public interest. Aereo points out that they're mistaken in this claim.
While Appellants imply that the sole purpose of the Copyright Act is to protect content owners, the Act was instead intended to strike the proper balance between copyright owners, on the one hand, and public access to information on the other.... Congress expressly and deliberately exempted “private” performances from copyright protection. Further, consumers have a right of access to local over-the-air broadcast television. There is no basis in law to confine that use to a home-based antenna or equipment, to fully time-shifted copies (whether on VCR, DVR, or RS-DVR), or to only non-Internet related deployment. Indeed, contrary to what may be the view of certain Appellants and amici, copyright laws were never intended to be used to confine consumers to outdated technology. The reality is that the networks fought VCRs, and they fought remote DVRs, and they lost in both cases. This is simply another attempt to preserve the status quo as a business matter without regard to fundamental copyright principles.
There is, also, a somewhat amusing response to the claims made by the broadcasters that Aereo should be found guilty for doing everything possible to avail itself of the specifics in the Cablevision case. They argue -- as we've seen some commenters on our posts argue -- that Aereo's specific technical decisions show that it was somehow intending to avoid the spirit of the law... by complying with the letter of it. Basically, they're complaining that Aereo may be jumping through a legal loophole they hadn't noticed. However, as Aereo points out, this argument really should work in Aereo's own favor, as the networks are basically admitting, flat out, that Aereo was doing everything it possibly could to live within the confines of the law:
Finally, both Appellants and amici argue that the Aereo technology is an “artifice” or some clever attempt to get around copyright law. Essentially, Appellants are arguing that Aereo carefully designed its system to comply with Cablevision. There is considerable irony in Appellants’ suggestion that Aereo is somehow culpable because it carefully designed its system to comply with copyright law.
Of course, it's interesting to note that one of the amici briefs on the other side came from Cablevision itself. This is a pretty cynical and obnoxious move from Cablevision. Having already won its legal fight that made the remote DVR legal, it knows that Aereo is actually potentially competitive. So rather than cheering another innovator on, following down the road it paved, Cablevision cynically jumps in to protect its turf and pretend that the ruling it fought so hard for doesn't apply to Aereo. I've included Cablevision's ridiculous brief below as well, in which it argues that it has a "direct interest in the proper interpretation" of the decision in its own case. That's hogwash. Cablevision's position here is solely to abuse copyright law and an important decision on its own behalf to now crush a competitor.

Oh, and in checking in on the docket on the case, I should mention that the silly amicus brief we talked about from former Register of Copyrights, Ralph Oman, in which he argued that new technologies should be illegal until Congress gives explicit approval, was amusingly rejected by the court for failing to comply with filing requirements. The court noted that it had given Oman "due notice" and he had not fixed the problems with his filing. However, after this rejection, he was able to refile yesterday...

Either way, this case really seems to be bringing out the crazy, crazy anti-innovation, anti-competition arguments from the pro-copyright crowd.

Filed Under: copyright, precedent
Companies: aereo, cablevision


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  1. icon
    jupiterkansas (profile), 24 Oct 2012 @ 7:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Hey, pirates: produce your own content THEN innovate on delivery.

    It's only that way because the broadcast area is limited by technology and FCC rules, and broadcast licensing schemes were built around that. There is no good reason someone can't broadcast anywhere around the world if the technology allows it, except it might upset some entrenched business models.

    Sorry new business, the old business doesn't like you.

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