Aereo took what were undisputedly public performances of works from broadcasters to the public, intercepted them, and by a feat of what amounted to technological legerdemain turned them into what it argued were no longer public performances but, instead, individualized transmissions from its service to each of its end users as an audience of one.
In this case, the Supreme Court rejected that argument, relying heavily on the idea that it was merely interpreting a statute (the Copyright Act) that had been amended by Congress in 1976 in part to overturn a couple of Supreme Court cases that had interpreted the prior Act to permit cable-TV style transmissions of copyrighted material free of copyright restrictions. The Court held that, in doing so, Congress intended to bring cable-like services such as Aereo into the Act's sweep regardless of the particular technological ways in which it handled the copyrighted material as it re-transmitted it to its users. Treating such technology, in effect, like a black box, the Court emphasized that, regardless of its innards, this service appeared to all concerned - to broadcasters, to viewers, etc. - to be functioning just like a cable service and therefore fell squarely within the Act's coverage as Congress had intended to modify it in making the 1976 amendments.
The most fascinating part of the decision, in my view, was how the Court arrived at this result while simultaneously trying to narrow its impact so that modern technological innovations would not be hit by its shrapnel. The Court not only did so but did so emphatically. Indeed, it devoted an entire section IV (pages 15-17) of its opinion to that issue. "We agree", said the Court, "that Congress, while intending the Transmit Clause to apply broadly to cable companies and their equivalents [i.e., Aereo], did not intend to discourage or control the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies." The Court then goes on to suggest (without deciding) a number of potentially key distinctions by which things such as, e.g., cloud music services might not in any way be infringing, including the prospect of fair use or the fact that the user receiving a transmission from the service may already own the copyrighted works being transmitted. I believe this is a strong signal from the Court that lower courts are not to ham-handedly interpret copyright law to stifle innovation but are to apply it carefully to prevent its abuse.
All in all, this decision represents a guarded upholding of traditional IP protections that prevents the use of technology to enable free-wheeling use of broadcasted materials while at the same time limiting its holding to that narrow sphere. Given the technical wording of the Act, it could just as easily have gone the other way and upheld the Aereo service as nothing more than something that facilitates individual, "private" performances via a streaming technology. But that would certainly have glorified form over substance and, I think, the Court got it right in the end.
And I think Scalia is right that Aereo does not commit a volitional act when one of their subscribers plays back a recorded show. By not committing a volitional act, they cannot be guilty of direct infringement.
I personally also think that the resulting performance is, crucially, not public. (Scalia explicitly does not address this question.) But this argument appears unlikely to prevail in the end.
The entire reason this law was written is because under an old law, cable companies ("community antenna television" in that day) were setting up antennas and running cable to multiple homes, charging the users for it, and not paying anything to the broadcasters/copyright holders. They made the same claim Aereo is making now - we're not rebroadcasting, we're just a big antenna connected to multiple homes. The law was written specifically to address this, but it was written in a generic way to avoid loopholes... like exactly the loophole Aereo claimed existed.
The gist of the supreme court decision is that, despite the behind the scenes trickery, Aereo is essentially no different from a cable company as far as that law was written. The intent of the law was certainly to restrict companies exactly like Aereo, and the letter of the law gives the court the ability to enforce this intent.
Before you call the decision "incredibly stupid" you might want to actually read it.
So you agree that I have a legal right to accept the OTA transmission in New York, to make a personal copy of the transmission, and send that copy to myself in Minnesota for viewing.
This is precisely what I do by hiring Aereo. There is no difference except I pay someone else to do the development and maintenance since I lack the skills or free time to travel to New York and set this up myself.
Suppose we look at it through a slightly different lens. I take a file to which I have a legal right, say some copyrighted material that I have paid for. I upload this file to my personal Dropbox account, which I share with no one. Then I travel across the country and download it for viewing.
Has Dropbox just committed copyright violation? If not, how does this differ from the scenario I gave in the first two paragraphs, where apparently Aereo was committing a copyright violation?
It's not really worth me repeating the argument here, as it would take 16 pages to do, and the Supreme Court has already done the work. After reading it I'd love to see your arguments with specific parts of the text.
Page 16 does address the Dropbox scenario, but I don't think it provides a clear line, which makes this a pretty crappy opinion, in my opinion. As they say on page 16, the cloud operators could try to slip through the holes in their definitions of "perform" and "the public", but I don't really see the distinction. I, the user, used my legal right to place copyrighted work on the remote service, and I chose to play it back some time later. That sentence applies both to Aereo and to Dropbox, and I think this decision would make the Dropbox scenario illegal.
Moving on to Dropbox. Dropbox has no involvement in the selection of the file in question, or even the type of file, and moreover, they're not the ones to place it on their system, you are. Aero, on the other hand, knows exactly what they're receiving because that's what their entire system is explicitly and narrowly set up to receive. They can't claim ignorance as to what they're capturing when their basic sales proposition hinges on a specific declaration as to what - exactly - they're capturing and re-selling.
In other words, the arms-length relationship between the service provider and content that protects Dropbox under the DMCA's Safe Harbor provision does not exist with Aero.
Boy is Geek Squad going to be in trouble when it's discovered how many TV installations they've assisted with are used for pirated material.
> They can't claim ignorance as to what they're capturing when their basic sales proposition hinges on a specific declaration as to what - exactly - they're capturing and re-selling.
I don't understand the distinction. In both scenarios, capturing an OTA broadcast and purchasing a digital file, I have the right to own and make personal copies of the content. I don't see how the law can make a distinction based on how I acquired the content in the first place, provided I have both of those rights.
Aereo doesn't need to claim ignorance because I have never broken the law. I have the right to accept the OTA broadcast and to store, transmit, and view personal copies of the broadcast.
Are you fucking serious?
"I don't see how the law can make a distinction based on how I acquired the content in the first place, provided I have both of those rights."
In the case of Aero, you didn't acquire the content from the broadcaster. Aero did. And Aero is not authorized to redistribute the content legally. The law can distinguish between your paying them for content and you paying Apple as easily as it can distinguish between an iPhone bought from directly Apple and one bought from a mugger who stole it from someone on the subway.
Like you said, "I have the right to accept the OTA broadcast and to store, transmit, and view personal copies of the broadcast."
Sure, but what you do NOT have the right to do is set up a commercial operation that resells those "personal" copies to others, which is precisely what Aero was doing. So yes, you can set up your own antenna and run it yourself. What you cannot do is set up a business that sets up antennas and runs them for other people.
I don't see how that difference is at all relevant to the analogy. Is it just because one involves repeated payments? Would it be legal for Aereo to charge a one-time fee instead of a subscription service? Or is the problem that Aereo owns the property where the physical antenna resides? Does my personal antenna+streamer have to reside on property which I own directly? What if I rent my apartment? Heck, my Internet connection is a subscription service, and I neither own nor operate any of the Internet equipment myself.
No, it's illegal because it involves reselling streamed or broadcast content (as opposed to content on physical media which can be resold under the doctrine of first sale) which is illegal regardless of whether it's done for one-time or ongoing payment. Commercial re-transmission is the real bone of contention.
>Would it be legal for Aereo to charge a one-time fee instead of a subscription service? Or is the problem that Aereo owns the property where the physical antenna resides? Does my personal antenna+streamer have to reside on property which I own directly?
Probably irrelevant, since they're still running a commercial service. That means the signal in question is not being pulled down by a private individual for personal, non-commercial use. It's being pulled down by a commercial company for the benefit of its customers. That puts it on the wrong side of the law.
Of course, if Aero were set up as a co-op, and its customers were owners of not just the antennas but the building etc. and were mutually responsible for the electricity and so on, then perhaps it could get around the law. But that's purely hypothetical, where as the Supreme Court was ruling on the (very different) reality.
>What if I rent my apartment? Heck, my Internet connection is a subscription service, and I neither own nor operate any of the Internet equipment myself.
If you rent your apartment from a landlord who charges you an additional fee for access to the wire running from the building's rooftop antenna to your flat, then the landlord is the one on the wrong side of the law.
As far as your ISP is concerned, they are treated by law (as far as content goes) in the same way that the telephone companies are treated. That is to say, they cannot be held partially responsible for any infringing uses you may use of their service, in the same way that the phone company can't also be charged with conspiracy when two gangsters use their system to plot a crime.
In terms of the internet, this comes from the Safe Harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA, 1998. In determining whether a network operator is partially responsible for infringing uses, the critical test is the source of the content. If they were the ones who put it on the network, they they can be held liable. But if (as in the case of YouTube or Dropbox) they're simply the hosts for material that others upload at their discretion, they are protected from liability. There's major caveat in that they must pull the content down if the owner of the content notifies them that its presence on the network is infringing. If they fail or refuse to honor a take down request, then they lose their legal immunity.
Aero is not protected by Safe Harbor since they're the ones who introduce the content to their network when they initially pull it off the air. Again, if they were run as a co-op (meaning there was no legal difference between the owners of the equipment and its end users) the case may have gone differently. But as they are an unprotected third party placing themselves in the middle of a legally protected broadcast transmission, and doing so on a commercial basis, they're doing so in violation of the law.
> Are you fucking serious?
No need to be rude. Given that nothing illegal occurs throughout the entire process, no, I don't really see a difference between who provides the service.
> In the case of Aero, you didn't acquire the content from the broadcaster. Aero did. And Aero is not authorized to redistribute the content legally.
I see you aren't familiar with Cablevision. Yes, they are authorized to redistribute the content. Cablevision explicitly made remote DVR services legal.
> as easily as [the law] can distinguish between an iPhone bought from Apple and one bought from a mugger who stole it on the subway.
My, what a poor analogy! In that case the mugger had no legal right to acquire that phone. I, however, do have a legal right to acquire OTA broadcasts.
Sorry, but I take offense at arguments that are stupid or dishonest. The Geek Squad analogy is not even remotely applicable since nothing owned or operated by the Geek Squad touches the content stream. Given that the content stream is the bone of contention, comparing them to Aero is - at best - stupid, and at worst, diversionary, which smacks of dishonestly.
And since we're on the subject, there was also an element of dishonesty in the way you tried to defend your Dropbox analogy. Initially, when you were wondering about what differentiates DB from Aero, you were talking about the companies. The explanation that one company qualified for the DMCA's Safe Harbor protections while the other didn't demolished your position. But you didn't concede - or even acknowledge - the point. Instead, you tried to continue the argument by quietly shifting the subject from the companies to the content, which is a separate matter entirely. This kind of rhetorical shell game is a weasel move, and is not something you see from people who argue in good faith.
And so you know, it was the pattern of dishonesty - and not a single incident - that raised my ire. If you can't support your point without resorting to bullshit, it's probably because the point you're trying to make is a bad one. Honest people stop there. Bullshitters press ahead, typically by employing the shell-game tactics you just used here.
For more on that subject, see Harry Frankfurt, who notes that liars - bad as they are - still respect the authority of the truth if only to do a better job manipulating it to their own ends. Bullshitters simply don't care. For this reason, they're a greater enemy of the truth than liars.
Moving on, I am "familiar" with Cablevision. They're a cable company that does business with content providers. Consolidating remote DVRs under a single roof is not a problem for content providers as long as payments from Cablevision remain uninterrupted per the terms of the contracts that Cablevision signs. Indeed, if their remote DVR system increases paid and advertiser-auditable audience reach, it can work out well for everybody. Because of this positive business relationship, Cablevision is authorized to redistribute the content that Cablevision redistributes in the way that they redistribute it.
If Aero wants to redistribute content in a similar fashion, it needs its own contracts with providers. It can no more piggyback on Cablevision's contracts for content than you can park your car in a private spot reserved for - and paid for - a complete stranger.
That's the issue here. It's not about your right to pull down OTA content. It's about your desire to pay a third party to do that on your behalf. Specifically, it's about the right of that third-party to offer that service on a large-scale, commercial basis in the first place. This is what's known in terms of copyright law as "substantially infringing."
Having read the conversation it looks more like talking past each other and failing to get to the core issue then stupid or dishonest arguments on either side.
yes, it absolutely is - the two issues are inherently coupled.
You are not Aereo and Aereo is not you. That's the point. You can pull down content for your personal, non-commercial use, and Aereo can pull down content for its personal, non-commercial use, but the moment either of you pull it down then transfer it to the other - especially on a commercial basis - then you've run afoul of the laws prohibiting retransmission.
That is what result of the Aero court case says but the legal standing was not so clear with out this court case. Otherwise it probably would not have made it to the Supreme Court nor cause so much discussion on Hacker News.
Really it seems most people who disagree with with the court case are looking for why is this ruling is fair or why did those who originally make the law think it was fair(is is still fair?) or does this make society better?
(1) These were retransmissions.
(2) They were commercial.
(3) That is illegal.
If Aereo was run as a co-op, and subscribers were also the owners of the facility and the employers of its operators, then a plausible argument could be made that the people pulling down the signals and the the people ultimately receiving them were one and the same. Accordingly, they'd be free to do what they liked without getting permission from - or paying money to - the broadcasters.
This arrangement would be substantially different from the original cable retransmission case, where the Supreme Court ruled against a model where the owner / operator of the antenna and backend delivery was distinct from (and sending bills to) the audience.
It would be more like the owners of a Manhattan co-op putting a single antenna on the roof of their building (key word: their) and running multiple wires into their individual units.
But while this far more defensible co-op structure may frustrate the broadcaster's lawyers, it would also frustrate (a) the venture funds backing the set up and (b) the banks angling to produce a liquidity event via a major sale or an IPO since legal immunity would be tied to the non-transferability of ownership from audience members to unrelated third parties.
That's what did Aereo in: they tried to have their cake ("See? Individual antennas! It's personal, non-commercial use!") and eat it ("Hey investors! Would you like violate both the personal and non-commercial shields that protect this operation by purchasing a stake in somebody else's stream?").
I don't know why the lower court couldn't see through this malarky, but I'm glad the Supreme Court did.
does this mean i can pay a third party to install an anetenna in new york, but i can't pay them maintain it for me?
But if you were the owner of a big enough building and were also charging people for the wire service to their apartments - and beyond - it gets more problematic. Indeed, a variation on this is what the Supreme Court ruled against decades ago. And if you do this on a truly industrial-sized basis (as Aero did) then expect the hammer to drop.
If the owner amortizes the cost of this antenna as a general building expense, and sets all the rents accordingly, there's still no problem. However, if the owner attempts to charge a separate fee for that connection (or tries to raise the rent for people who opt out of paying that fee) then he has not only inserted himself in the middle of the content transmission stream, he has done so on an individualized commercial basis. In effect, he's made himself a micro-distributer by establishing a cash for content deal with his tenants and the law has a major problem with that.
That's miles away from "just hiring a tech guy to come over and set up your cable card".
That is not my understanding. Bob and George could have both leased Aero antenna in the same area. Bob's could get good rescission and George's could get bad reception impacting making George's experience worse. Or so says the public statements of Aero.
> You're just buying individual access to an independently owned and operated antenna array.
Is there evidence of this that contradicts Aero's public statements?
"the antennas are “multitenant” which means that, when one Aereo subscriber is not using an antenna at a given time, it is available to all other subscribers."
So no, it's not "your" antenna any more than a weekend rental from Hertz is "your" car. Moreover, the antenna is only part of the package. The real lyncpin making the system work is - or was - Aero's proprietary transcoding setup and the equipment that handles the feed coming off the antenna, and that is definitely not run on a 1:1 basis.
I mean, the whole idea that this is a bunch of individually "leased" equipment packages that just happen to be co-located in the same facility without any meaningful overlap between each person's personal, individual feed ("just like me putting my antenna on someone else's roof!") is such complete and utter bullshit.
When you said that "You're just buying individual access to an independently owned and operated antenna array." I thought you meant that all subscribers where sharing access to the to the array.
Time share rentals exist so it makes sense you could do it with antenna as well.
> Aero's proprietary transcoding setup and the equipment that handles the feed coming off the antenna, and that is definitely not run on a 1:1 basis.
Is there evidence they are mixing signals from different antenna to improve signal quality. I thought I had read quotes from the CEO saying with pride this was not the case.
Also, there's an important difference between a time-share rental (which has a single owner doing business with a number of clients) and a time-share co-op, in which use of the property is a function of direct, if partial ownership.
If you own the antenna - even in part - you can justifiably claim that your use is personal and non-commercial. However you cannot resell the material to others. And if you don't own the antenna - and are buying access to the material from someone who does - then you're not getting it from an authorized source.
Individual antennas was clever, but not clever enough. Individually owned antennas (as part of a audience-owned operation) would be more defensible. But then the investment opportunity would evaporate.
One person does something it is legal, but if N people do it it is illegal? I do not think that is what you are trying to say, but I can not isolate what you are trying to say.
Unlawful assembly, at least as it usually is defined in the US state laws (the British form has been expressly repealed for decades, and so isn't an offense in any case) requires not only a purpose of disturbing the peace but the completion of some offense, and so would be illegal in the N=1 case as well, not only in the N>>1 (or even just N>1) case.
So, while there may be a good point here, that's not a good example at all.
I thought about that example specifically and it does not seem to fit.
Normally the problem with too many people assembling is that they they block businesses, road ways, etc. In this case each person is not doing the same thing as when N=1. Some N+1 person comes along and decides that it is ok to block a door way or a road, or can not tell that their addition adds to an egress problem if there is a fire. In the example of unlawful assembly of N>>! people are not taking the same actions as when N=1.
1. Marrying one person is legal. Marrying >1 person is not.
2. An S corporation can have at most 100 share holders.
3. Zoning limits on the number of people that may occupy a structure are common.
> Just because a single instance of an activity is legal does not necessarily mean that N instances of the same activity are legal.
> 1. Marrying > 1 person
Is not n instances of marriage under the same conditions. It seems like to fit your original statement it would have to be that one couple marrying was legal while N couples marrying was illegal.
> 2. An S corporation can have at most 100 share holders.
The number of people is changing but it is only one instance of forming a S corporation not N instances of forming an S corporation.
> Zoning limits on the number of people that may occupy a structure are common.
The N+1 person moving in is not really doing the same things as the first person moving in similarly to the unlawful assembly.
It would be interesting to look at laws implement actions which are legal with 1 instance but illegal with N, but the example you have quoted so far to do seem to have any carry over to the Aero case.
That depends on how big of a threat Dropbox is deemed to be by major lobbies for content creators or distribution channels. Trying to apply any sort of unbiased reasoning to IP laws is futile. The rulings will be in favor of the most powerful and interested lobby.
The reality is that Aereo built the system using their own capital and offered the service for a fee to any member of the public. The business model is no different from a cable company or satellite TV company.
In the case of DropBox, you stipulate that you have the legal right to view the file, so that answers the question.
I have the legal right to accept OTA broadcasts in New York. I also have the right to store personal copies for time shifting (see Cablevision). It is exactly an analogous situation to using Dropbox to store copyrighted material solely for your own use.
Aereo has the right to view and time shift NY OTA content for their own use. But they upload their file to their system for your use. In doing so, they are attempting to transfer viewing and time-shifting rights from them to you.
This is not exactly the Court's reasoning, but it examines the differences in the context of file rights.
Practically what changes though if I have to log into a server and push a button or two to explicitly start an upload from the antenna to my storage space? How much work do I have to do manually before it becomes legal? What about me doing it manually makes it legal, fair, or better for society.
The concept of property ownership is potent in legal reasoning. If you do things with an antenna and DVR that you own, then you are the legal entity doing those things.
If you pay a fee to a company to do those things, then both you and the company are doing those things. The legal status of the company is a service provider, which is different from an individual end user. Aereo was a service provider, but tried to assert that they were merely an extension of each subscriber's personal property. The Supreme Court said no to that interpretation.
As for society, a legal system that provides revenue opportunities for creative works encourages the flow of capital to invest in those creative works. LOST or Breaking Bad would not be possible if the companies producing them did not have some way of making money to pay back their investors.
It was an incredibly stupid decision.
I could offer the exact same service. I will point you to a ~$160 hardware device that I will colocate in a datacenter in Chicago for you for $15/month. I'll provide power, networking, and unlimited bandwidth. How is this any different?
If you'd be interested in this sort of setup, I would be curious (my details in my profile). I'm already waist deep in several other projects, but I'd love to gauge the response. I already have datacenter space; I could be providing service to 80-100 people in two weeks with my current resources (i.e. Chicago-based datacenter space).
Not looking to compete with Aereo; definitely looking to disrupt protectionist copyright rulings.
People will pay more for it, so Aereo will charge what they know they can
I'm not arguing about whether the law applies, I'm asking to explain the logic of the law which intents to forbid such service.
So an end user could log on to their server tap into their antenna and watch whatever the antenna was picking up. They could install dvr software to their server if they needed to record shows and play it back latter.
Then you're fine.
They looked at Aereo and said: It looks like a cable company and quacks like a cable company so it's gotta act like a cable company. The precise configuration of equipment they have in their datacenter doesn't matter.
It costs a lot of money to make American Idol and CSI and to license the rights to the Super Bowl. The people that own that content should have a right to license it out in whatever manner they choose.
The fee was already paid then that party decided to stream it over the air. If the content creator does not want that they they do not have to allow for that usage. Or charge more for it.
I was proposing an alternate solution that looks equally viable under the law(not considering the recent supreme court ruling of course). It also seems more reasonable/fair then the Supreme Court ruling in question. If you thought my stated idea less fair then the supreme court ruling I hoped you would say why and provide evidence.
I was not trying to inform you about current laws.
>The law specifically says that cable companies cannot transmit TV that is broadcast over the air unless they pay rebroadcasting fees.
If that was obvious to everyone that Aero fell under these restrictions then I do not think the case would have made it to the supreme court or be a topic that would attract much conversation on Hacker News.
Providing a service to the public vs. doing something privately, in law, is generally about doing the service commercially via an arms-length transaction in the general marketplace, not about the ratio of inputs to outputs. So, its not "redefinition" at all.
Offering antennas or houses for rent may be a service to the public, but if you the service doesn't involve any of the things that count as performance under the relevant provisions of the copyright act but only the tools to do it, its not a public performance.
If Aereo was literally only renting physical attennas, the situation would be rather different than the actual service they were offering.
> If Aereo was literally only renting physical attennas, the situation would be rather different than the actual service they were offering.
Then there is an easy workaround. Let them rent out hardware explicitly. And users can control that hardware anyway they want (for example install some video streaming tools there, may be made by the same Aereo, and stream to themselves). What level of involvement from Aereo makes it a performance?
Personally, I still think that is dumb and bad.
While Aereo's setup is undoubtedly clever, I am glad our legal system doesn't treat the raw text of laws as gospel. Laws are created for a purpose, and it would be impossible to foresee every possibility to get around the intent of a law when you are drafting it.
Sure, and my point is that the "spirit" of these laws is simply to please IP lobbies. I don't think it's a good thing.
> When you have to go around the text of the law by jumping through convoluted hoops (which Aereo has definitely done), it's likely you're violating the spirit of the law.
How is what they've done convoluted? It's extremely simple.
I would ask what law grounds the definition of the black box. If one would try to do the same to a illegal content hosted on a website, where should I start drawing this box? At my ISP, since it is the edge where I as a customer receives the content? At the websites ISP, since it is the one that broadcast the content? The coo-location of the server, as it is there that the mechanism for broadcast is happening? The hardware, which produced broadcast? Or is it the person who acted on the machine in order to create the broadcast?
As with a onion, each layer covers the internal workings of the next one. The actual functionality being provided (ie content) is the same at each step.
I do not see anyone making the argument that it is.
> It's a set of values adjudicated by judges attempting to issue rulings that most would consider fair.
belorn is offering arguments/evidence that an unfair decision was reached by the court in this case.
> They made the same claim Aereo is making now - we're not rebroadcasting, we're just a big antenna connected to multiple homes. The law was written specifically to address this, but it was written in a generic way to avoid loopholes... like exactly the loophole Aereo claimed existed.
I was asking to explain the logic of that law. What is wrong with renting the antenna? Why it should be forbidden while using the personal antenna is permitted?
"The entire reason this law was written is because under an old law, cable companies ("community antenna television" in that day) were setting up antennas and running cable to multiple homes, charging the users for it, and not paying anything to the broadcasters/copyright holders."
I don't see what is wrong with this. Without that company, that person wouldn't be able to access the content - which is, itself, a "public performance." Otherwise, the person wouldn't be willing to pay for it. Either way, its an agreement between two private parties as to how they wish to access public information.
This is protectionism.
I have no pity for Aereo here. They based their business model on a legal technicality, and SCOTUS simply applied an updated technological interpretation to an old law. Their investors were big time media guys (Barry Diller was a founder of both Fox and USA networks) who knew the risks they were taking: it didn't pan out for them. Aereo is not a story of a plucky startup fighting the system; it's just one part of the system fighting another part of the system over who gets more money. Had Aereo won this decision, the real winners would have been Comcast, DirecTV, AT&T and Verizon.
Is that supposed to be a bad thing? Public performances should be public! Location-shifting (at least within the initial broadcast area) and time-shifting should not need any additional licenses. Cable companies shouldn't have to pay for those particular actions either.
The difference between CATV and Aereo is that Aereo leases you exclusive usage of an antenna, instead of retransmitting the single stream to a large audience (i.e. a public performance).
Aereo is logically the same as a cable company. Cable companies license their content.
If I'm not mistaken, the answers to these questions haven't changed because of this decision. So whatever you think the answer was before, that's the same answer now.
Seems to me that they should just start making deals with the locals, Dish network charges something like $5 a month for access to it so it seems like Aereo could ink a deal with a similar cost.
In general you don't need a license to consume a copyrighted work that you received legally. There was no "click to agree" on the last book I read. You only need a licrense to exceed what copyright allows.
Some software companies have argued that the hierarchical storage of a computer violates copyright, and thus all software requires a license to run. But this case was not about software.
Note: not a lawyer, just a highly interested observer.
A number of courts have broadly agreed with those software companies. While you're correct that you don't need a license to read a book, this is true (broadly) because you don't need to make a copy of a book in any meaningful sense in order to read it.
But to run a piece of software, or read an ebook on a computer, or play a music file, you do need to copy it -- not just into hierarchical storage but also into RAM -- and this brings copyright into play (as far as the courts have generally been concerned), and thus necessitates all of the end-user licensing of digital media.
Just to clarify, by "hierarchical storage" I mean the entire storage hierarchy of the computer, multiple tiers of which may contain a copy of any given data in use by the computer: registers->cache->RAM->HDD Cache->HDD[->backups]
I guess that's technically what I asked for, but I don't think pointing out the existence of that statute does much for the argument that you need a separate license to run a computer program you paid for.
Let's try this again: Can you cite a relevant case that hasn't subsequently been invalidated?
Would this ruling find me liable if I created "dumb pipe" rented antennas streamed online, like Aereo, if I didn't make it an express goal of the service to watch television? Or say, a filesharing service which has plausible deniability (like client-side encryption) and no expressed intentions for its use to violate the Copyright Act, but that can incidentally be used by consumers to do so? Could the court simply call those kinds of services/software "technological obfuscation" and consider it forbidden? (I believe the court has strayed toward this argument in Grokster and other cases unfortunately.)
If so, I can't make a fair, fundamental distinction between that and any other cloud-like service. Devoting a section to "distinctions" to make lower-court precedent messier cheats a proper interpretation of the facts and will create ambiguity.
I really hope I'm misunderstanding this!
"The Court manages to reach the opposite conclusion only
by disregarding widely accepted rules for service-provider
liability and adopting in their place an improvised
standard (“looks-like-cable-TV”) that will sow confusion
for years to come."
This non-lawyer feels that Aereo might have mis-stepped by 1) not going with a tighter "we are a long antenna cable" approach and 2) trying to scare everyone into thinking a ruling against it would somehow stifle mostly unnrelated cloud innovation.
I don't see how this really differs from a person setting up recording equipment in his/her own home to capture that OTA broadcast for later viewing—which itself is legal.
I have mixed feelings on the whole case but your example isn't directly comparable.
Really though the whole idea of local broadcasts of national shows no longer makes sense. The networks should just live stream their shows online for everyone. This isn't in the interests of the local affiliates and probably is not legally feasible right now due to various contracts with them.
But because of technological changes we don't need local affiliates in their current form anymore. Of course there are local news shows and they are still valuable and networks should show locally targeted commercials but the old broadcast using local affiliates model doesn't make sense with modern broadband capabilities.
Tivo, for example, is also a middle-man that is doing essentially the same thing. Tivo grabs your paid (in this case) cable TV signal, and for a separate fee, records that content onto their hardware and allows you to stream it on devices and televisions without using the cable provider's own hardware.
That is a ludicrous precedent to set. Making your services available for everyone to purchase does not make the service itself a public utility. My sending an email containing a copyright file to myself through Gmail's service (which they offer to anyone!) is not the same broadcasting that file publicly and violating copyright, and it's insane to think that it does. This is why cloud service companies are up in arms about this decision.
He compares Aereo to a photocopy shop that provides users with library cards to access materials. Providing the copier and the card isn't a direct violation of the Copyright Act (via direct, volitional "performance" of a copyrighted work). Aereo may be guilty of a secondary violation (enabling a direct violation by others), but that wasn't the question before the court.
To make it even more interesting, this case was specifically about the "play" function of Aereo, and the Supreme Court wasn't addressing at all its "record" function, which is essentially returned to lower courts for them to decide (and I suppose only if Aereo continues to fight).
This is really the problem with the "look what it does, not how it does it" school of reasoning. What it does (allow you to watch OTA TV) is allowed sometimes and not others. How is a court supposed to differentiate between one and the other without looking at how the thing actually works? How is a company supposed to answer the same question about their product or service?
The intentions of the law were to prevent this rebroadcast of content. The intentions of Aereo were clearly to do this. Aereo tested the waters by trying to make a distinction between public and private, and between transmission and performance. Ultimately, the court did not agree such distinctions were valid.
Putting aside how you're supposed to evaluate the intent of Congress or Aereo without evaluating exactly what it is they're doing, are you ready for the stupid consequences of that? It would mean someone doing the same thing with the same result would be legal if they had different intent. For example, someone could set up a service where customers can rent a VM in the cloud attached to a software radio receiver that can receive any radio signals. Then "someone" (do you really care who when the outcome is the same?) publishes free software that allows you to use that to accomplish what Aereo does and more. The intent of the antenna provider no longer has any identifiable relationship to broadcast TV and yet people are still watching NBC without paying for cable. The same is true of the software provider, whose software has no reason to distinguish between a radio receiver in the cloud vs. in your home. Is that the result you were going for?
The problem with cases like this or Grokster is that it's the reverse of that. If you intended to get the same result as the prohibited thing then whatever it is you actually did is retroactively defined as the offense. It's thoughtcrime. You were thinking "bad thoughts" when you did something, therefore whatever it is you did is prohibited.
The consequences of that are all kinds of stupid. On the one hand it means that everybody has to hire lawyers and censor their employees to make sure nobody says anything that could retroactively cause their actions to be interpreted as unlawful by providing evidence of intent. It's completely pointless for BitTorrent to be OK while Popcorn Time isn't. Popcorn Time is essentially BitTorrent with a different logo. If you can't shut down BitTorrent then being able to shut down Popcorn Time will cause a zero percent reduction in piracy.
Meanwhile for all the language about not wanting to discourage innovation, how is that not the only possible result of this? You might as well post a sign that says "technological solutions to legal problems are prohibited." And technological solutions to legal problems are great, because legal problems are problems and technological solutions are solutions.
The dissent (Scalia, Alido, and Thomas) believe that Aereo did not "perform" at all. They believe that when an Aereo subscriber logs in and clicks the play button, that the subscriber, not Aereo, is doing that performing.
EDIT: Please note that the dissent would not have necessarily ruled that Aereo's service was legal. The dissent merely believes that Aereo's service complies with this one specific part of the Copyright Act. From the dissent: "[Our] conclusion does not necessarily mean that Aereo's service complies with the Copyright Act. Quite the contrary. The Networks' complaint alleges that Aereo is directly and secondarily liable for infringing their public performance rights and also their reproduction rights."
So this decision is designed to be as tight as possible. The Court is trying to limit the effects of its decision by constraining it to this one claim by the networks. From the language of the dissent, I have a hunch that even if this one aspect of the case had been decided in Aereo's favor, that some other aspect would have resulted in its service being declared illegal.
Scalia: "I share the Court's evident feeling that what Aereo is doing (or enabling to be done) to the Networks' copyrighted programming ought not to be allowed."
Tech people like to treat laws as rigid rules that would be written in a formally specified language if only legislators were capable of such a thing. But they're not, and by design.
It doesn't make sense for a law to be written such that receiving on one antenna and sending the result to your users is illegal, but receiving one an antenna farm all located in the same spot and sending the result to your users is legal.
Do we really want to live in a country where the obvious solution is illegal but an insane workaround is legal? I don't want a precedent set where it becomes standard for laws to be bypassed with expensive and technically pointless workarounds. If we want to allow companies to receive TV broadcasts and stream them over the internet, we should do so. If we don't, we shouldn't. A situation where they're only allowed to do it if they have 10,000 separate and unnecessary antennas is absurd.
Personally, I think it's ridiculous that a TV station can broadcast their signal free of charge to anyone capable of receiving it, but if a company wants to receive it and then pass it along to somebody, they have to pay a fee. But the problem is with the ridiculous law, not with a completely reasonable interpretation of it.
Given that the TV broadcasters are paying for the right to broadcast (often gigantic amounts of money), I don't see a problem with preventing an Aereo from free-riding on that privilege. YMMV.
If you look back before cable TV, broadcasters transmitted their signal and the only people who could watch it were those with suitable equipment within range. Broadcasters competed to get as many people as possible to watch. Each new eyeball (preferably in pairs) meant additional revenue for them with no additional cost.
Then comes cable TV. In addition to access to new channels, it also provides the benefit of being able to watch regular broadcast channels even when you couldn't receive them over the air. That means more viewers for the broadcast stations, and thus more revenue. Why, then, should broadcast stations get paid for distributing their signal to more people, which is what they want anyway?
It's clear to me that this is what the law says, and since the Supreme Court's job is to interpret the law, it also seems clear enough to me that they made the right decision here. But it doesn't seem like a very good law.
What this seems to leave open is the question of whether a company that was e.g. a generic cloud service with various features and functions, among them the ability to rent a mini-antenna and stream recorded data from it to your computer, would still be infringing. It suggests the infringement is largely due to the way Aereo positioned and marketed itself to customers - the common sense reality of the service overrode the technological loophole they attempted to exploit.
The Supreme Court ruled wrong in this case.
The whole thing is contradictory. If the broadcasters broadcast for free over the air and local cable companies retransmit to local customers for free because it increases customer exposure to the broadcaster's advertising, that would be consistent. If over the air viewers had to pay to subscribe and broadcasters also charged cable companies to retransmit, that would also be consistent.
Allowing viewers to watch for free over the air but charging money if you watch via a cable wire is an illogical contradiction that the broadcasters successfully lobbied to have codified into the Copyright Act.
So it's stupid, but not self-contradictory. The law can be enforced with no contradictions.
Until you have a technology which is neither over the air transmission nor cable TV and there is no logical way to classify it as one or the other because the original distinction had no intelligible justification.
Aereo - watch what's over the air right now.
Hulu - puts ads in the video
Aereo - shows the ads that are over the air.
Hulu - is like having everything on DVD
Aereo - is like having a 50 mile extension cord on my digital antenna.
I think the difference is striking.
Contrast this with the lesser known, but competing service offered from Syncbak.
Syncbak does the same thing as Aereo, but rather than circumventing the existing networks and content providers; those are Syncbak's paying customer base.
I'm missing something... Cause I don't see why broadcasters are against Aero at all. Is it cause cable companies pay broadcasters for content and people think Areo will cut into that?
Theoretically Aereo makes it more expensive to watch these channels(but easier and more reliable) than a one time purchase of your own antenna.
I don't know enough about this specific case to judge. But, by in large that is what copyright law has been used to do for last 20+years.
To me that's like saying Sony who charges $150 for an outdoor digital antenna, RCA who charges $80 for a signal amplifier, and the installer who charges $500 to rig it all properly should all pay the content owners because they enabled me to watch the freely available content.
I could pay Aereo a small monthly charge or I could modify my house at great expense and end up with the exact same outcome. I don't see the difference.
Hulu - pays a fee to creators for use which it recoups/profits from ads
Aereo - pays no fee to creator, still profits from ads
I must have missed something. How do they profit from ads?
The problem I have with a "quacks like a duck" test is, in analogy, "Your honor, it sounded like a coot to me". That is, it's not a test I can apply by myself. I have to go ask The King of All Duck Sounds if it's a duck, a coot, a widgeon or maybe a grebe.
And that's fine, if we're all interested in a society where we get permission to do anything. If that's what we are going to have, I just want those permissions to extend to all, and for Lee Greenwood to be banned from singing "Proud to be an American". Otherwise, we're going to end up with a de facto aristocracy and underclass situation. Which is prima facie bad, legal or not.
Personally, I am much more interested in what Aereo's next step is going to be.
There is 1 antenna per user.
There is 1 recording per user (Aereo is not recording a single instance of desperate housewives and then muxing that out to everyone).
It is over the network.
Other than not owning the means of reception and means of storage, I don't see much of a difference between this and in home recording.
Are you saying that NBC does not pay anyone for the rights to broadcast a movie?
And yet that has nothing to do with content producers being compensated.
Studios are in a competitive environment. Not only do they have to fight other current studios for monetizable customers, they have to compete with the entire corpus of existing works. Fringe has to compete with X-Files. Law and Order: New Episode has to compete with Law and Order: Rerun.
In order to make money from customers, there must be an intact distribution path between supplier and consumer. In the world of physical goods, you cannot sell a Chinese widget to Joe Merica without a cargo ship, a stacktrain, an intermodal truck, a big-box store, its parking lot, and the roads between it and Joe's house or business. All that has to be paid for. It is completely unreasonable for the overseas manufacturer to expect that he be paid by all those links in the supply chain for the privilege of carrying the goods.
The manufacturer has to pay them a portion of what he earns from Joe on the sale, because without them, he cannot get Joe's money at all. The transport network provides value to the manufacturer because it increases the potential size of his market. Likewise, the manufacturer provides value to the transport network by giving it something to move. Neither one can even try take the whole pie, or it ceases to exist.
The distributor has to pay the supplier. But the supplier also has to pay the distributor.
In the case of broadcast television, the problem of who pays whom is partially resolved by advertising. Advertisers pay the supplier for access to their customers' attention, and the supplier can therefore pay distributors in proportion to the number of customers they can provide.
This is why broadcasters pay so much for licenses. Over-the-air radio broadcasts can bring in a huge number of customers with relatively low infrastructure investment. As long as they are paid by advertisers on a per-viewer basis, there is no reason why they should be getting any additional money from anybody for rebroadcasting rights... except one.
If the rebroadcaster is not providing the same number of consumers for the advertisers as for the entertainment content, the supplier is not getting paid for them. Enter the commercial-skipping DVR. The advertising model breaks down. The advertisers have to assume that every person not watching a show live is skipping their ads, so they only pay for the live audience.
And so castles made of sand fall in the sea eventually.
If any necessary part of the supply chain is not paid for, the money dries up for everyone. And the advertisers are paid with statistics. Aereo probably could have made this go away simply by offering up timestamps and button presses, to identify the number of customers actually watching the ads.
We hear all the time about people taking advantage of tax loopholes, for example. Yet these very loopholes are generally designed-in, to push people into a particular behavior. For example, I could pay less tax this year if I had solar cells installed on my roof. Would you call this means of avoiding taxes a loophole?
Modern politics is, as much as anything else, about finding ways to coerce people into the behavior you want. We set up huge taxes on tobacco, for example, to try to cut down on smoking. We help pay back student loans in order to get people to take up teaching. But most of us wouldn't criticize someone for becoming a teacher, saying they're taking advantage of a loophole in student loan agreements.
I can't see a principled way to draw a line in this, other than to simply accept laws for what they are, and similarly accept those who conform to the law as "law-abiding".
I agree that drawing a line is tricky. Certainly people are law abiding unless they are not obeying the law. But that doesn't stop me asking if people are obeying the letter and spirit of the law, and forming an opinion based on the result.
For the general public, sure, all citizens may advocate for different laws. In the context of a Supreme Court decision, it's much less clear. Is the court really charged with deciding what the law should have been, if only those idiot legislators hadn't mistakenly put in yet another loophole? (Aside: does anyone really think these are mistakes?) Surely the court would be on firmer ground interpreting the laws as written.
Laws are the map, not the territory.
Except for it didn't.
If it's illegal to do X, but legal to do each of A, B, and C, and A -> B -> C does X, it's not surprising when X is illegal.
I recently gave a pair of rabbit ears to my mother-in-law and we were amazed at how much better the picture quality was. She's lucky, howver, to live about a mile or two from the sticks. Most people need a better antenna.
Cable HDTV is often heavily compressed so they can fit hundreds of junky channels into a limited pipe. Particularly for sports where there is fast motion and fine detail, the difference is night and day.
Cable headends tend not to have very much compression equipment, sometimes they have stuff used for feeds local to the headend, but usually the compression happens at the originating facility. For something like CNN, this is at their studio. The signal with that original compression is encrypted, uplinked to the satellite and then received off the satellite by receivers at the headend. It comes out of that receiver as a compressed digital signal called ASI, which is MPEG2 compressed video over SDI. It is then typically fed into a demultiplexer/multiplexer that will combine or separate it into different streams and then it is fed into a QAM modulator. For ATSC the same is fed into a 8vsb modulator (or something like that). For encrypted systems it is fed into a encryption unit before being fed into the QAM modulator. The key here is that each video stream is not recompressed even when it is remultiplexed.
The issue may be that of signal strengths and associated error rates and how that is reflected in encrypted streams. Typically encryption cases degradation to be reflected poorly in the signal compared to unencrypted signals.
I've had this experience in both Columbus, OH and Phoenix, AZ.
Cablevision designed a remote DVR system that made transient, user-specific copies based on the user's pressing a button on their set-top-box remote. In their defense against Cartoon Network et al., Cablevision made the "volitional conduct" defense that Scalia talks about in the dissent here- essentially, that the user who pressed the button was responsible for making the copy.
Cablevision won at trial and on appeal in the Second Circuit.
The biggest difference between the Cablevision case and the Aereo case is that Cablevision has and pays for the broadcast licenses that Aereo was trying to avoid having to obtain.
Am I as a consumer allowed to store my DVR material on hosted storage then have that stream to me later?
Then can my cloud provider cache and de-dupe content on their environment so that they don't need to have 4 copies of the same episode in cache?
I wonder, can a new company sell set top antennas that perform better than others, because they aggregate signals and can enhance the quality of your dvr material?
What next? Illegal for a user to colocate their own antenna equipment?
Sometimes, the law is wrong. This is one of those cases. Aereo attempted to comply with the law, and was told they failed. Fine. Keep fine tuning your business model until you're just within the confines of legality. That is how the law works, no?
There are two reasons I paid for Aereo:
1. I cannot receive a digital TV signal over the air where I live.
2. I wanted just local channels, but did not want to pay another $30-50/mo for other channels that I'm not going to watch.
The Hauppauge product solves neither of these problems.
Relocating the receiver to a metropolitan area greatly increases the number of people who can watch the content, and ads, that are being broadcast.
As much as I do not agree with Justices Roberts or Scalia, I agree with their dissent in this case. This decision makes no sense from a legal (or technological) perspective.
That's expensive and inefficient. The only reason they did it was to exploit a potential loophole in the current law - and now the Supreme Court has effectively closed that loophole.
The spirit of the law as passed was to stop cable companies capturing and rebroadcasting over-the-air TV signals without compensation. So it shouldn't be too surprising that the Supreme Court made the judgement they did.
It's quite simple: when this law was created, was Aereo's use case considered? If the answer is 'no', then you can expect the law to be refined to cover it at a later date. Odd legal loopholes don't get to stand just because they've been around for a while.
On if such a performance was private or public: the decision said that it was a moot point as the "commercial objective" of Aereo was the same as if it were public. The law as it stands did not intend to separate private and public performances.
Also, how about applying the spirit of the Statute of Queen Anne. Wouldn't like that one, I'm thinking.
"Spirit of the Law" - humbug.
We don't, no. The Supreme Court does, however.
The intention of the changes to the Copyright Act (which Shivetya has detailed better than I can) was to stop basically what Aereo is doing, albeit back in the 1970s with cable companies. The legalese reflected the technology of the time. Aereo found a technical loophole that allowed them to continue to do it, but all the while they were violating the spirit of the law.
Which is, of course, legal. Until it isn't.
Antennas are legal. Manipulating airwaves to be played on a TV is legal. Long antenna cables are legal. Putting an antenna on my neighbor's roof is legal. Paying my neighbor rent for such a thing is legal. Storing broadcast content is legal. Paying for devices to do such a thing is legal.
Aero by many is seen as a tool to make use of those transmission on public air waves therefore in the sprit of the law.
But yes, horizontally scaling systems comes at a cost, sometimes they are more inefficient, sometimes they cost more, but in the long run if it helps you meet the goals of the business it shouldn't be illegal.
They said themselves that the reason each user has an antenna is because it was what allowed them to legally operate. Their hardware setup was entirely based around a loophole in existing law. Ironically, it's awful horizontal scaling, too - if a single antenna breaks there is no backup, the user assigned to it loses their TV signal.
It's not the array of antennas that boggled me the most, it was the racks and racks of servers encoding the exact same show hundreds or thousands of times in parallel.
It's not the decision I'd hoped for, nor the one I'd make, but it's nonsense to claim that it's "wrong". All we can do about it now is to get the law changed.
The Supreme Court decides interpretations of law, but the law itself (as written or as interpreted) is quite capable of being wrong. Law does not determine morality.
We just pretend that they, like the Catholics pretend for their pope, are infallible. At some point, you have to let the matter be settled in a final and lasting way, otherwise nothing can get done. It is sometimes better for a matter to be settled in an unsatisfying way than it is to have any uncertainty remaining.
A ruling from the ultimate arbiter is not an ethical mandate. While one can hope that their decision is compatible with and motivated by moral values and ethical principles, it could also be the result of political expedience or a bit of bad pork in yesterday's supper.
It isn't right or wrong. It is simply what has been decided by our most prestigious professional arbiters.
If you don't like what they decided, you can accept it and move on, or start petitioning a legislator in an effort to make their decision obsolete.
...Or, there is something else you could do. It rhymes with "abhorrent". As long as we're not concerning ourselves with "right" or "wrong" here, we could simply accept the precept that if the courts fail to deliver acceptable results to the litigants, they might seek them out by other means. It really depends on how mad Aereo is about the fact that a private business interest was able to use government power to destroy a potentially disruptive competitor.
I would guess that the vast majority of Aereo's business expenses were a direct result of attempting to comply with the law, and its apparent loopholes. The service could be replicated at lower cost by one antenna per broadcast station, local resources to convert the signal into compressed video files, and redundant servers in multiple safer jurisdictions. The successor could simply take subscriber fees to ensure that a particular station is recorded during a particular interval, and the resulting video is seeded for a minimum period of time. Now that they know that their entire business model is ruled illegal, there is no particular reason to comply with any part of the law... other than their respect for the law.
Aereo may choose not to do this, but they have proven that there is a market for it, and nothing excites the black market more than a proven demand for an illegal good or service. What's more, the black market equipment will be virtually indistinguishable from legal gear, so long as the operators take even the most rudimentary steps to cover their tracks.
The people who used Aereo aren't just going to go back to cable. They are simply going to move from a provider that could be sued out of existence to one that is effectively invisible, or withhold their money and wait for something else worth spending it on. I understand that the cable companies had little choice but to attack Aereo, but they have to understand that they created the market conditions for Aereo to appear. As long as they exist, they will be playing whack-a-mole with every new service that tries to provide television services better than cable.
What makes a cable company "public performance" is that the company is selling services to the general public in an arms-length transaction. The shared nature of the transmission medium is irrelevant.
They could send streams directly to individual subscribers using IPTV, as AT&T does with U-verse, and it would still be a public performance.
That is why Aereo needed the individual antennas to try to take advantage of a perceived loophole. Aereo with one big antenna would not have made it to the Supreme Court, because it would have been so obviously in the wrong.
If I invite 100 people to my house to see a movie, it's not a public performance (supposedly) because they are coming as members of my social circle. If I instead showed at a movie theatre and charged for it, and the same 100 people showed up, then it would be a public performance because those 100 people came as members of the public.
Here Aereo broadcast to customers as members of the public. Because Aereo owned the equipment, they were the ones doing the broadcasting (in the oral arguments one of the judges commented on how if instead they sold the equipment and just provided hosting, the position would be much more defensible).
But, like what many others have said, the intent of the law is really what matters, and the definitions of public performance are much more about intent than about technical implementations.
The Supreme Court is unfortunately trapped. As the opinion notes, the Court once took a position very like Aereo's, way back in 1968, on the subject of shared "community" antennas (Fortnightly v. United Artists).
The Court's position today is that Congress more or less immediately amended the Copyright Act in response to that decision, and now the law as written no longer supports the Court's former position (and thus no longer supports Aereo's position).
On the one hand, I'd agree with Scalia that the "looks-like-cable-TV" standard is a shaky one, at best. On the other hand, the court is saying "Look, we agreed in the past, but Congress explicitly disagreed with us. Go fix Congress, and we'll agree with you; we're not legislators."
I can black box Aereo and it looks like a whole lot of manual work by me to set up an antenna stream and time shift recordings etc.
Aereo wanted to define the activity by drawing a box around the tiny antenna and the user.
The Supremes draw the box around Aereo and their customer base.
Edit: having read the decision, it seems there were companies that provided antenna services back in the 60's, and congress amended the copyright act to forbid them. The ability for Aereo subscribers to choose which material is transmitted is key to Aereo's argument.
Redesign their system to have discrete units. Aereo users would then buy the boxes (similar to that Hauppauge one linked elsewhere in this discussion) and pay a monthly service fee for power and bandwidth. If they are done with Aereo, they can have the box shipped to them for a small fee, or sell it back to Aereo.
The user will have complete and direct control of the TV box. Then there should be no problem.
Hardware costs will be higher though, and maybe the service ends up costing more overall. It would still be worth it for some people, like my friend who (while he likes sports in general) really just wants to see all of his favorite sports team's games from another city. I know of other people with similar use cases.
It isn't over since the case now goes back to the lower court, but Aereo can no longer argue they are the same as a person putting an antenna on their roof.
In the US, broadcast channels are free over the air. However, there is a law that says if cable companies want to retransmit the broadcasts, the networks can charge the cable companies.
Is Aereo "retransmitting" the broadcast, or just renting personal antennas? That is what the Supreme Court was deciding.
I'm not making some big statement here, but it just goes to show that guys like Lawrence Lessig and the EFF keep losing because they have so few allies in government and have the most powerful enemies, the various deep-pocketing IP abusers like tech firms or Disney.
What now? Back to our DRM-laden lives with no silver lining I guess. Shame that the profit on mass entertainment trumps all rights. I wonder if my Slingbox is illegal now. Probably not, supposedly this decision is narrowly written, which is a welcome change from the big sweeping conservative-led majority decisions of late.
And that's a good thing. This isn't a sports game where I should root for "my team." The judges shouldn't start from the end position they want and work towards that.
Decisions on issues that have high political salience tend to be the ones that make news; there is currently something of a correlation with political salience and 5-4 split decisions on the courts, since Justices positions are most ideologically (rather than legally) consistent on points that were politically salient at the time of their appointment, and the issues with the strongest political salience also are often relatively consistently salient over an extended period of time, and since the court splits at or close to 5-4 on a lot of enduringly-salient issue areas.
But plenty of 9-0 issues on issues that have current salience make news, and 5-4 decisions on which the justices are split but there isn't a great deal of political salience often aren't treated as any more newsworthy than any other decision.
I went looking through those 5-4 cases to see if were along the left/right line. Only 4 of the 8 had Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas on the same side.
(The second had Thomas writing the opinion and Scalia writing the dissent. That's pretty rare.)
EDIT duh, that's what the color-coding was for. Oh well.
Patents, Copyright and Trademarks are all American inventions that have spread everywhere in the world. Many Americans think it goes too far, but in the fraternity of lawyers and judges, IP rules.
I believe that's the key insight. "Intellectual property" is good (in the sense of generating lots of work) for the legal profession. Judges tend to rule towards things that benefit the legal profession(s), and against things that don't benefit those profession(s).
However, you're wrong in point of fact. Copyright is an English law thing, a statute law, not a common law. Look up "Statute of Queen Anne". It's from 1710. Patents seem to be a British or Venetian thing. The USA almost didn't have a patent or copyright system, Thomas Jefferson was quite against them. For a long time, the USA allowed immigration on the basis of possessing some skill or patented idea - the USA was an "IP Outlaw". Not too surprisingly, this coincides with the USA's period of industrialization.
"Intellectual Property", the idea that one can own ideas, is just a bad idea, from an economic standpoint.
Copyright law was also largely invented by Britain dating back to when the printing press was invented in the 1600s.
Trademark law is even older dating as far back as the Roman Empire. The first modern Trademark system was actually set up by France.
Your assertion about this stuff being American inventions is wrong.
The UK made nothing to spread it, the US made sure it's more universaly accepted than the Human Rights convention.
The Berne Convention was developed at the instigation of Victor Hugo of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale. Thus it was influenced by the French "right of the author" (droit d'auteur) (...) Before the Berne Convention, national copyright laws usually only applied for works created within each country. So for example a work published in United Kingdom by a British national would be covered by copyright there, but could be copied and sold by anyone in France. (...) The Berne Convention followed in the footsteps of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property of 1883, which in the same way had created a framework for international integration of the other types of intellectual property: patents, trademarks and industrial designs.
Have you heard of the British Empire? The UK did quite a lot to spread their legal traditions.
Bear in mind that the function of the Supreme Court isn't to propose new laws (legislate); it's to rule on existing laws. By its own mandate, the Supreme Court does not serve an innovative function in government. It serves an examination and arbitration function. If we want to change anything here, we'll have to start in the other branches of government, or else bring a case that sufficiently challenges the Copyright Act.
You are confusing enactments (things like the Constitution and statute law, like the Copyright Act) with precedent (prior rulings of courts applying the same law). These are fundamentally different things, thought the court looks to both
Nevertheless, I think my point still stands. Court needs to find, sort, and prioritize reference points essentially.
2. Roberts has a deep and wide judicially conservative record. He cannot be called "liberal" in the context of American politics; it's not even up for debate. The man and his judicial practice is as conservative as they come.
3. I really don't see why it matters. The justices' political leanings have nothing to do with whether or not their decisions are "correct" or not (although it may provide insight into why they decide one way or another).
In a nutshell, the dissent would have also ruled against Aerio, just for a different reason than the majority. This sentence from Scalia's dissent should put things in perspective:
"I share the Court's evident feeling that what Aereo is doing (or enabling to be done) to the Networks' copyrighted programming ought not to be allowed."
Congress at the time did not like how the courts were ruling in favor of the then fledgling CATV services. Courts ruled that capturing and sending the shows to cable viewers was not a violation as were not acting as "performers". Congress changed that they were, effectively stopping cable from providing local and regional channels. Well Congress showed who was truly doing this by adding in all sorts of new compulsory fees for carrying local channels. So CATV can and in some cases has to carry local content and pay for it.
Congress changes to Copyright in 1976 at the behest of broadcasters versus CableTV is the basis for the ruling. The original broadcaster owns all rights unless otherwise assigned.
The opinion compares Aereo's use of tiny antennas to cable companies' use of one big one. They argue that since Congress passed a law back in the '70s to define the cable companies' practices as rebroadcast, that law should be read as also defining what Aereo does as rebroadcast.
When I look at their offerings, I can immediately see that they're selling a streaming TV service and it just happens to be implemented by receiving radio-frequency broadcasts. Supreme Court justices aren't idiots, and they can probably see that too.
IANAL, but felt like the DVR functionality really clouded the case and possibly skewed it away from Aereo. Harder to claim you are merely an antenna when you are recording, too.
To support that would set bad precedent, I think--both legally and technologically. Even if you hate copyright, I'd argue that this ruling is probably better in the long run because it clarifies the situation and the fight.
From that perspective I think the decision is essentially correct, although I'm sure it will be unpopular here.
However, I did read the syllabus, and there is some language in there referencing viewer participation in a public performance, that seems worrisome. But I'm not a lawyer, so I will be interested to see informed discussion of whether the specific legislation and precedents were applied correctly, and what implications were created by this decision.
The only problem is that Aereo didn't get enough money fast enough to "create an ecosystem" or whatever the phrase is when you mean "monied interest not afraid to lobby for their cause".
More from Scalia's dissent: "The Court vows that its ruling will not affect cloud-storage providers and cable-television systems, but it cannot deliver on that promise given the imprecision of its result-driven rule."
In what other sense could they have been prepared? They fully expected to end up in the courts, likely through the supreme court, and planned appropriately. They lost the case, but it doesn't seem to be for lack of preparation.
For the record, I work at a company with a lot of former Navic Networks employees (the company Chet Kanjoia founded before Aereo) so there's plenty of talk about Aereo and I'm pretty familiar with their model.
If it's really just me renting an antenna it seems like that is still legal.
This is annoying because it also obviously affects useful things like WebSDR. Since WebSDR nodes can tune VHF/UHF, they can receive copyrighted TV and music, which means they're now illegal to run under this ruling. (Fortunately, all the good WebSDR nodes are outside the US, so it doesn't matter in practice. But if you were going to set one up in the US, think again.)
I truly wish I could have more confidence in other parts of government, especially lower court judges, and the police.
That implies, sadly, that instead of clear first-principles rulings they're really just interpreting the law to suit their beliefs.
The split has been studied endlessly and it's real; they rule politically rather than rationally. Just one example of coverage: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/the-incr...
Except not. Stereotypical 5-4 decisions are down, unanimous decisions are up. Overall the justices are agreeing with each other more than ever. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014...
Average Joe doesn't give a flying f* about his privacy, the loss of life in war, the obscene spending on failed military projects, the lack of social programs, the millions stuck with ridiculous student debt...
But hey, touch their right to watch Netflix or some local station from NYC from their house in California and SHIT GETS REAL!
If there are no practical ways to repeal Supreme Court rulings, what happens when the Supreme Court makes a mistaken ruling?
Since the supreme court interprets the law, the way you to change the ruling is to change the law. In a few recent cases, the supreme court has basically said (paraphrasing) "we don't like this ruling, but this is what the law says. If you want to fix it, talk to Congress, not us."
There have been some very notable instances where the Supreme Court has changed its mind or modified its prior rulings (for instance around civil rights), so while its the end of the road for this petitioner, it doesn't bar the law evolving in the future.
Of course, there are intricacies here. Especially in case 2 where the weight giving to legal precedence makes it unlikely.
So that answers your question about what the next step could be, as well as why the Court ruled the way it did.
What exactly do you mean by a “mistaken” ruling?
Either way this is bad for the consumer, bad for technology, and bad for innovation.
I'm honestly curious what is wrong with renting an antenna from a company and streaming the signal, regardless of location.
Your intent to figure out exactly where the line is drawn is a failure that geeks have when going about the law. The law isn't written for a robot to unfailingly interpret. You won't get a good answer for the same reason the tribes making headphones out of coconuts won't get a good answer for how exactly they need to wear them for the cargo planes to come back.
I think the court has found that the "distribution for pay", i.e. "Cable TV" aspects of aereo's service outweighs the "antenna rental" aspects, and that makes it charging for a public performance.
If you rent an antenna on top of the Empire State Building, digitize the signal, and set up your own means to stream it over the internet to your house in Peoria, that is probably a private performance. If you effectively sell someone access to the stream (like a Cable TV company), that is a public performance.
This is also what ESB would be doing by letting people rent antennas and streaming servers.
Aereo is selling streaming TV service that just happens to use antennas in the backend.
You might say, it's all the same in the end from a technical point of view. And you're right, but the law doesn't care about the technical point of view. From the legal point of view, Aereo is selling TV streaming, and must comply with laws for TV streaming.
I don't think you'd have any trouble setting up DJB's Internet-Accessible Antenna Rental if that's what you actually offered. Stick some SDR equipment on the antenna and give me access to the raw bitstream. If I want to watch TV with the service, then I can tell your equipment to tune to the appropriate frequency, and then decode the bitstream locally. But if you set up DJB's TV Streaming without paying any license fees, and you just implement that by receiving signals from an antenna, it's a different beast even if it looks the same technologically.
Now, if the equipement were sold instead of rented, and obstensibly Aereo was only providing electricity to the antenna/DVR setup, then things might have been different (at least it was implied in the oral arguments). But obstensibly the service being provided by Aereo was one of broadcasting, not of hardware hosting.
However, I don't think the two decisions are inconsistent. As I understand it, Cablevision was already paying license fees for rebroadcasting, and the case was just about exactly what they could or could not do with that license. Aereo's case is about whether they need to pay license fees at all.
I am eager to hear some expert commentary on the ruling on what the side effects will be.
I'm not seeing it. The decision seems to specifically covering only the business model used by Aereo. That is, charging users for a service that retransmits television content without a license to do so.
What other business models are you talking about?
That alone is a big loophole!!!
That said, I'm apparently in a suburb of Baltimore, and when I visit the aerio site, I only see access to Baltimore services... suggesting that I'd have a hard, if not impossible time getting an antenna in Miami.
In other words, the SC just defined Aereo as a cable company, when they wanted to be a cloud services company.
At least this time it isn't such a direct attack on the "common people"
500 Internal Server Error
The server encountered an unexpected condition which prevented it from fulfilling the request.
What was the key deciding factor that they broke the law?
What will happen now to Aereo's investors money? Will it be used to pay a large copyright royalty fee? Can it pivot? I think the latter is unlikely seeing they had no other plans, they bet the horse.
Reading this article back in March, I would've been freaked if I was an investor.
“No. There is no plan. We believe in our merit and we do
think it’s the right thing. Progress is important. The
mission of this company was to try to create an open
platform, to try to wedge the system open a little bit.
And if we don’t succeed in that despite our best
efforts, good law on our side, and the merits of our
case, it will be a tragedy but it is what it is.”