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Court: Aereo TV Rebroadcast Is Still Legal 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the technological-integration-by-parts dept.
Maximum Prophet writes "While Redigi is illegal, Aereo, the service that allows users to time-shift over-the-air TV programming, isn't. 'We conclude that Aereo's transmissions of unique copies of broadcast television programs created at its users' requests and transmitted while the programs are still airing on broadcast television are not 'public performances' of the plaintiffs' copyrighted works,' said the ruling (PDF). Of course, both decisions are going to be appealed. 'The outcome also answers the question, at least momentarily, of whether online television would be controlled by a stodgy industry that once shunned the VCR, or whether third-party innovators embracing technological advances have a chance to build on the openness of public airwaves. ... Aereo’s technological setup, the court found, basically allows it to do what cable companies could not: retransmit broadcast airwaves without paying licensing fees. In short, the Aereo service is as legal as somebody putting an antenna on top of their house to capture broadcast signals. The court said Aereo “provides the functionality of three devices: a standard TV antenna, a DVR, and a Slingbox” device. “Each of these devices is legal, so it stands to reason that a service that combines them is also legal. Only in the world of copyright maximalists do people need to get special permission to watch over-the-air television with an antenna,” said John Bergmayer, an attorney with the digital-rights group Public Knowledge. “Just because ‘the internet’ is involved doesn’t change this."'"
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Court: Aereo TV Rebroadcast Is Still Legal

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  • Hang on. (Score:4, Funny)

    by boarder8925 (714555) <thegreentrilby@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @02:36AM (#43345385) Homepage
    This isn't a late April Fool's Day joke, is it?
  • What a hack (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @02:42AM (#43345401) Homepage

    Aereo is a legal hack. Each user has their very own UHF antenna. The receiving center has thousands of tiny UHF antennas, one per user, each driving their own private file store. It's a remote DVR.

    • Re:What a hack (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kell Bengal (711123) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @02:52AM (#43345453)

      Each user has their very own UHF antenna. The receiving center has thousands of tiny UHF antennas, one per user

      This really does highlight the absurdity of the current legal framework.

      • by Mathinker (909784)

        I think what highlights it even more is that one of the dissenting judge's arguments was "this system is totally ridiculous, therefore, even if is legal it can only mean that Aereo is trying to game copyright law by using it --- therefore I rule Aereo shouldn't do that".

    • by Dr. Tom (23206)

      Each user gets a "private" copy. I wonder if that copy is about 64 bytes long, just a symlink to the master; they could claim it's merely a compression scheme.

      • If I was them, I'd use a deduping filesystem (e.g. zfs).
      • I can't find the article now but didn't either one of these PVR services or a music storage service get in trouble over de-dup?

        If memory serves, the court ruled that because it was reading exactly the same locations & sequence of bytes for all the users with the same file it equated to a public performance.

    • by hey (83763)

      Does an Aereo user actually get content thru "their" tiny antenna?

  • They stated publicly that the lawsuit did not affect their current business.
    • Also, the redigi case is going to be reversed on appeal. It is directly contradictory to established rulings including the landmark case RIAA v Diamond.

      The low-court judge's summary-judgement logic was that copying data to a new hard drive makes a new copy of a work under copyright law. RIAA v Diamond had the appeals court look at that in depth, and they found that it does not.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The case was fought by:

    AEREO, INC., F/K/A BAMBOOM LABS, INC.,
    Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellee

    Against 10 or more Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellants
    In other words aereo.com did this by themselves.

    The day after the ruling, buycleartv.com is pushing TV on the Internet through pushy TV ads.

    Buycleartv is "run" through TV spam commercial producer tristarproductsinc.com.
    You've seen them selling the AbRoller, the Banjo Minnow, the Power Juicer and the Genie Bra
    to quote a few from their front page.

    TV via the

  • Broadcasters have a solution if they don't like this decision: don't broadcast over public airwaves, and surrender your valuable spectrum. In other words, be less like ABC and more like ESPN. (Disney understands both business models because they own both, so this isn't a secret.) Of course terminating one's broadcasts would probably mean losing viewers and advertising revenue, but that just reflects the fact that free-to-air ATSC broadcasting is still a financially rewarding way to distribute programming.
  • by srussia (884021) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @03:42AM (#43345599)
    Having all those individual UHF antennas. Lots of apartment buildings have a shared antenna--nothing illegal there.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by only_human (761334)

      I think there is a subtle difference. If you live in an apartment building sharing a common antenna, in some sense, that antenna is a property use paid for by all tenants, similar to a swimming pool.

      In the past, putting over-the-air shows on the internet has been stopped. In those cases there was no established obvious user access to the antenna that was used to put the programming on the web. Aereo is trying to merely meet a simpler case of enabling use of equipment to which the user has legal access. It m

  • PBS... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @06:06AM (#43346047)

    Undeterred, a group of the plaintiffs, including Fox and PBS, said they intended to move to trial. “Today’s decision is a loss for the entire creative community,” they said in a statement. “The court has ruled that it is O.K. to steal copyrighted material and retransmit it without compensation. While we are disappointed with this decision, we have and are considering our options to protect our programming.”

    I recall something in the last election about how PBS should be entitled to government funding for "the greater good", meanwhile their sales of DVDs and other whatnot's (which apparently they are now trying to protect) go directly into the pockets of the executives instead of repaying what the government gave them. Never mind that big bird makes hundreds of millions per year in addition to paying nothing for its main source of distribution.

    Why is government subsidized work supposed to be the property of this so called benevolent broadcaster?

    And no, I'm neither a Romney supporter nor a Republican. I'm just one of those libertarians who is a nut for thinking that the government handing money to private entities who otherwise have a perfectly sustainable business model (and are in fact very profitable) is ripping off the taxpayers, and I'm annoyed as hell that somebody would be painted as being the bad guy who "hates free education for children" because he wants to take away said funding.

    • Oh and I forgot to add; while they are giving this free money to this profitable business, they can't even properly fund themselves and are going deeper and deeper into debt every year. It's stupid that taking away unnecessary spending like this, which I think very obviously needs to be done, is like pulling teeth.

    • I don't get your point.

      Are you saying the court found that you can record Fox but not record PBS? I couldn't find that in TFA.

      Or are you suggesting that Fox should move toward qualifying as a "faith-based initiative?" ;-)

      • by mjr167 (2477430)

        I think he is complaining that PBS is involved in the suit when he feels that since PBS is government funded, it should be free free. I.E. our tax dollars paid for PBS so all Americans should have a right to view PBS anytime they please, however they please without paying a fee since theoretically we already paid it with our taxes.

        So in short PBS is full of greedy bastards who are using our tax dollars to create a product and then trying to charge us to use the product.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      Wow.
      You are so fing clueless about PBS, and TV network structure in general.
      Essentially nothing you said is actually true.

      PBS, like many "networks" is composed of a supplier of content and thousands of member "affiliates" that take that content and then actually broadcast it. (incidentally, it's why they are called "networks").

      Your tax money, less than a whopping $1 a year, only goes to fund that central body, and allow it to purchase broadcast rights to content, and then supply (ie: resell/redistribute) sa

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @06:34AM (#43346131) Homepage

    "Aereo’s technological setup, the court found, basically allows it to do what cable companies could not: retransmit broadcast airwaves without paying licensing fees."

    If you think cable companies pay licensing fees to carry local channels then you have no idea how the cable tv business works.

    When I worked at Comcast we used to strong arm all the locals by simply not carrying them if they demanded any money. we would just replace their channel with a black screen that says "WZPX is trying to extort money out of you and raise your cable bill. Call them at 888-888-8888 and tell them how you feel"

    It was usually about 3 days and the station would call back and say they were ok with us carrying them for free.

    • by rossdee (243626)

      A few years back the owner of the local NBC station (and also the local CBS station) had a dissagreement with the cable company and we were without NBC for a while. (There was another CBS channel broadcasting in our local area so we still had CBS). I think the cable company eventually gave in and paid for the local content since it couldn't legally offer us any other NBC station. Of course this is a smaller cable company than comcast, and the owner of the NBC station is a media conglomerate from Texas and t

    • by acoustix (123925)

      When I worked at Comcast we used to strong arm all the locals by simply not carrying them if they demanded any money. we would just replace their channel with a black screen that says "WZPX is trying to extort money out of you and raise your cable bill. Call them at 888-888-8888 and tell them how you feel"

      It was usually about 3 days and the station would call back and say they were ok with us carrying them for free.

      What you are describing is "must-carry" status. If a station labels themselves as "must-carry" then they cannot demand compensation from the cable or satellite provider. However, many of these stations are changing from must-carry status to retransmission consent status where they can charge for their content. Since many of the commercial must-carry stations are usually affiliates of nation-wide broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, etc) they have realized that they can make more money by charging fees

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        TV stations that lose "must carry" status can not complain if I insert TV commercials Over theirs effectively taking their advertising revenue. At comcast we did that to the local FOX affiliate that went that way. they whined big time and then negotiated away their fees so that we wold not cover up their commercials with our commercials.

        Note: every commercial break the cable and sattelite company can cover up 50% of the TV commercials with their own. Thats how your local car dealer get's his ad's on

  • Over in Australia, there was a case where Optus was retransmitting broadcasts to their mobile telephones on the claim of 'time shift'.

    The ruling is that while it is not illegal for an individual to do this for his own benefit, it is illegal for a company to do it to onsell the service.

  • What about showing NFL games?? they don't have the rights to show them out of area same thing for FOX MLB games.

    Also local games as well WGN can not show all of the bulls games on wgn america and no blackhawks games on wgn america.

    • by frinkster (149158)

      What about showing NFL games?? they don't have the rights to show them out of area same thing for FOX MLB games.

      Also local games as well WGN can not show all of the bulls games on wgn america and no blackhawks games on wgn america.

      These are examples of licensing agreements between content owners/producers and licensed broadcasters. The law has nothing to do with it.

      This particular ruling probably ends up being better than Aereo expected. The court said that Aereo does not engage in public performances, therefore it doesn't need a license to do what it is doing. In the eyes of the court, Aereo is an antenna, a DVR, a Slingbox and a really long network cable. It doesn't matter how long the network cable is, and it doesn't matter if

  • by Grizzley9 (1407005) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @09:10AM (#43346781)
    Could they not just host overseas and then re"broadcast" back to the US? Any program there are numerous sites transmitting a live feed of from overseas. I always wondered about the legality of that since they are not part of the US copyright system.
    • by psydeshow (154300)

      Could they not just host overseas and then re"broadcast" back to the US? Any program there are numerous sites transmitting a live feed of from overseas. I always wondered about the legality of that since they are not part of the US copyright system.

      They would need bigger antennas, wouldn't they?

      Though I guess they could put a boat in international waters off the coast of NYC and stream whatever signal they could pick up.

  • “The court said Aereo “provides the functionality of three devices: a standard TV antenna, a DVR, and a Slingbox” device. Each of these devices is legal, so it stands to reason that a service that combines them is also legal." I definitely feel there's a way to abuse this "Combinations of legal devices are legal". I mean, webservers are legal, and CD rippers are legal, so putting ripped CDs on a webserver should be legal too, right?
    • by wierd_w (1375923)

      If you have copyright granted redistribution rights to the cd image file contents, then yes. Putting ripped CD images on a webserver *IS* perfectly legal.

      The scenario you painted is not a good comparison to this judgement.

      A dvr allows you to record live a live stream, and then play it back later. It is legal under rulings related to vcr devices. A slingbox does a point to point retransmission from a remote media source to the recipient. It is basically a cleaner version of watching (well trying to anyway...

    • I definitely feel there's a way to abuse this "Combinations of legal devices are legal". I mean, webservers are legal, and CD rippers are legal, so putting ripped CDs on a webserver should be legal too, right?

      Agreed. A screwdriver is legal unless you are pulled over in a stolen car and the ignition is popped out, then if the police find a screwdriver you are in possession of a felony tool. You don't even need 1 or 2 other legal devices.

      • by yurtinus (1590157)
        Eh, very important distinction: The use of each device they are combining is perfectly legal. Using an antenna to capture over the air TV is legal. Using a DVR to time-shift that broadcast is legal. Using a Slingbox to place-shift that broadcast is also legal. So, a single device or service combining these is perfectly sensible. In your analogy (and kudos for the car analogy!), that key "stolen car" step breaks it.
  • I had a similar idea for streaming movies. I just don't have the time or the resources to try and do it.

    Put together a server room filled with DVD towers and literally stream the discs directly to the customer in real time. I'm actually surprised that no one is doing this right now. Or, for all I know, someone is doing this and I just don't know about it.

  • by pdabbadabba (720526) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @10:24AM (#43347483) Homepage

    A small point: TFS says that both rulings are likely to be appealed, but the Aereo decision was actually from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. So, unless the Supreme Court takes the case next term (extremely unlikely) that decision is final.

  • This sounds a lot like I Crave TV (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICraveTV). Only 13 years ago, and already ancient history. Interesting. Time moves quickly.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday April 03, 2013 @01:03PM (#43349505)

    This is just an appeal of an appeal of a denial of a preliminary injunction in the actual suit. As such it's interesting but it really says very little about how this in going to work out in the long run.

    One can hope but I wouldn't be investing much money in this company just yet. It's got a long legal path in front of it.

    Don't count your chickens - this is a LONG way from being settled.

  • I live in KC, but I want to watch Pittsburgh Steelers games. There is NO economically reasonable way to do this through a whole NFL season besides paying for a DirectTV contract (maybe $75-95/month) on TOP of their NFL package which is about $350 or so. So, to watch one team play the 10 or so games that won't be nationally televised, I'm expected to pay about $1000, or $100 each!

    If I could just get day passes for just the televised game days, that looks like it's only $1.

  • As a strong financial and moral supporter of PBS, I am simultaneously appreciative of PBS's even-handed coverage [pbs.org] of the Aereo story and disappointed by their participation in the suit.

    There's much to dislike about Aereo's business model. The company's technical and legal maneuverings allow them to excessively monetize an otherwise low-cost service. Like so many water bottling companies, they provide a small convenience, and they should be allowed to, but there are good philosophical and financial reasons

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