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Television Cloud The Courts

Aereo To SCOTUS: Shut Us Down and You Shut Down Cloud Storage 342

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dedpuplication-considered-massively-infringing dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Aereo is currently fighting for its life before the Supreme Court, and has issued a warning: if you take us down, you could take the entire cloud storage industry down with us. The company argues that they only provide customers with access to shows picked up by an individual antenna that they've rented. If the constitutes a 'public performance,' then so does the act of downloading a copyrighted document stored in a cloud storage service — even if the customer has purchased the right to use that document." v3rgEz sent in a link to the transcript of the first day of arguments.
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Aereo To SCOTUS: Shut Us Down and You Shut Down Cloud Storage

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    What matters is clout. Both mp3.com and Google did a similar thing. mp3.com was destroyed utterly, while Google faced a little bit of RIAA finger waggle.

    I doubt this will affect anything cloud-wise.

    • by alen (225700)

      yeah, not like any of the big media companies have sued dropbox or google over retransmission of their works

      • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:09PM (#46826429)
        Whether you've been sued is irrelevant to whether it's legal. The Supremes deal with legality, not enforcement.

        And the argument isn't binding. The Supremes can find against Aereo and state "the lack of a *formal* agreement and that the content was not uploaded securely by the user himself makes this a distribution by Aereo, and thus a valid legal tort" both making Aereo illegal and securing Cloud for everyone else. The fact that the argument was raised just means it will likely be addressed in the finding.
        • by lgw (121541) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:29PM (#46826653) Journal

          The Supremes deal with legality, not enforcement.

          They deal with pleasing the public these days, not legality. It will be interesting to see which way they go on this. They're quite smart enough to rationalize any possible decision, but that's after the fact.

          If they don't like Aereo, I wonder how they'll explain the many apartment buildings with a shared antenna on the roof used by all the residents (though maybe that vanished with analog TV). I'm really tired of pretending that doing some old thing we've done for ever, except "on the internet" somehow makes it legally different.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:54PM (#46825509)

      mp3.com stored a single copy of each song - and streamed copies of that shared song to users who had shown (by inserting a CD or buying the song from a mp3.com associate) that they owned it. While mp3.com claimed that they were protecting individual Fair Use (or was it First Sale?) rights, the technical point on which they were crucified was not the streaming to individual users, but the creation of the shared database (for their own commercial benefit).

      In the Aereo case, they are not taking the signals from a single shared antenna (or from a small group of shared antennas) and replicating them. That would open them to the sort of attack that destroyed mp3.com. Instead, Aereo is taking the technically-very-ugly, but legally-more-likely-to-be-sound approach of having huge farms of micro-antennas, and renting individual antennas to individual customers. It is the broadcast signals from the plaintiffs that are replicating the programs – same as if the broadcast signals hit an equivalent number of rabbit-ears antennas in an equivalent number of houses.

  • How many? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:36PM (#46825335)

    Just how many industries will we allow the content industry to ruin in its death throes before we finally get wiser?

    • Re:How many? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:39PM (#46825363) Homepage

      Just how many industries will we allow the content industry to ruin in its death throes before we finally get wiser?

      All of them.

      Technology is reaching the point where the content industries more or less have to give permission for everything it gets used for.

      And, anything which they interpret as cutting into their revenue stream or otherwise making it possible to copy something, is going to be vigorously fought by them.

      This is the buggy whip makers telling us that we need their permission to design highways. And innovation will suffer.

    • Just how many industries will we allow the content industry to ruin in its death throes before we finally get wiser?

      I don't think there's much evidence that over time, humanity gets any wiser. Each generation seems doomed to re-learn the hard lessons of those past.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      Just how many industries will we allow the content industry to ruin in its death throes before we finally get wiser?

      It is not the content industry that is attacking Aereo.. its not even the cable companies.

      It is the broadcasters that are attacking Aereo because if Aereo is allowed to do what they are doing, then cable companies (who want to see Aereo win) can go ahead and do exactly what Aereo is doing, so they can avoid paying any redistribution fees to the broadcasters.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        The industry is all the same. Local stations are owned by major broadcasters, which are merged with major cable companies, which are part of conglomerates that own movie and television studios and distribution rights.

      • by PRMan (959735)
        Well, considering the laws to do this have been on the books forever, Aereo SHOULD win. But since the whole government seems to be bought by big content these days, there's no guarantees.
  • cant watch legally (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    So, torrents win again?

  • by Jmstuckman (561420) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:43PM (#46825395) Journal

    From a legal basis Aereo's business model seems sound to me -- all they're doing is helping me receive a broadcast TV transmission which I'm entitled to receive over the airwaves anyway.

    On the other hand, a ruling in Aereo's favor would be a boon for the cable companies and could kill the concept of free, broadcast TV altogether. As things stand, the cable companies pay the networks to retransmit feeds of their programming. If Aereo wins, the cable companies would be able to save money by erecting Aereo-style antenna arrays for their cable feeds, bypassing payments to the networks.

    As things stand, cable customers are getting screwed because they're paying the broadcasters for the same programming twice -- once in the form of advertisements, and again by paying for the network broadcast feeds. On the other hand, by using my own antenna, I'm receiving dozens of free channels which are being subsidized by the cable customers. If Aereo prevails, broadcasters may terminate over-the-air broadcasts altogether to avoid losing their lucrative royalties from the cable companies, leaving me out in the cold.

    • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:46PM (#46825427)

      the cable companies would be able to save money by erecting Aereo-style antenna arrays for their cable feeds

      This is how 'cablevision' used to work. They'd put up a big antenna that could pull down signals you couldn't and then distribute the signal around a town, for a fee.

      • This surprises me. If the cable companies used to do this, then why do they pay royalties to the networks nowadays? Why is Aereo getting sued if they're doing the same thing the cable companies can do?

        • From the transcript, here is the argument the cable companies are giving that distinguishes the two. From pages 16-17:

          But the reason there's a fundamental difference between the RS DVR at issue in CableVision and what Aereo provides is, as Justice Alito alluded to, the fact that there's a license in the CableVision context to get the initial performance to the public. And so then I think appropriately the focus in the CableVision context becomes just the playback feature and just the timeshifting that's enabled by that. And in that context, if you focus only on that, then the RS DVR looks a lot like a locker service where you have to come in with the content before you can get content out and you only get back the same content. And here is what really I think Aereo is like. Aereo is like if CableVision, having won in the Second Circuit, decides: Whew, we won, so guess what? Going forward, we're going to dispense with all these licenses, and we are just going to try to tell people we are just an RS DVR, that's all we are, and never mind that we don't have any licensed ability to get the broadcast in the first instance, and we're going to provide it to individual users, and it's all going to be because they push buttons and not because we push buttons. If that were the hypothetical, I don't know how that wouldn't be the clearest violation of the 1976 Act.

        • by PRMan (959735)
          Because the providers have "packaged" everything together and send C&Ds about carrying their "free" channel if you didn't pay for their "pay" channels. And none of the cable companies have wanted to fight that lately, because dropping the "free" channel is the best way to get 100,000 pissed off residents to flood the channel with complaints.
      • This is how 'cablevision' used to work. They'd put up a big antenna that could pull down signals you couldn't

        There is a huge difference: Cablevision put up *one* antenna and used that signal for thousands of users. Hence, public performance.

        Aereo rents each individual user their own, private antenna. (Yes, if they have 10,000 subscribers, they have 10,000 antennas). Hence this is NOT a public performance; you are only watching what your own, private, rented equipment is receiving.

    • If the broadcasters that transmit over the public airways want to cease using these airways then fine let them do that. The government can then take the airways back and auction them off for other uses. The whole concept of over the air broadcast television is rather outdated anyway.

    • by msobkow (48369)

      The cable companies are NOT "subsidizing" OTA broadcasts.

      OTA broadcasts were the ORIGINAL way of doing TV. They're supposed to be paid for by the ADVERTISING.

      If the content producers are getting paid extra by cable companies to carry the content, that's a BONUS for them, not a RIGHT.

      But as per usual, the cable cos and content producers like to present their double dipping as some sort of OBLIGATION from the public to them.

      Well, screw them. If they drop OTA broadcasting because it's not being "su

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Did it ever occur to you that neither advertising fees nor subscription fees are enough, by themselves, to cover the cost and still make a profit?

        It does not matter in the slightest what the 'original' method was. Back then, there were only a very few choices of what to watch, so each network had a huge number of viewers. Adverstising rates could be set high enough to cover the costs, because there was no other way for advertisers to reach that many people. Today, there are many, many choices for an adve

        • by Altus (1034)

          Did it ever occur to you that neither advertising fees nor subscription fees are enough, by themselves, to cover the cost and still make a profit?

          Is that why Viacom is posting record losses every quarter?

    • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@p10l i n k . n et> on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:00PM (#46825577) Homepage

      If Aereo wins, the cable companies would be able to save money by erecting Aereo-style antenna arrays for their cable feeds, bypassing payments to the networks.

      I doubt it, Aereo's legal position relies on one antenna per user. That also means one data stream per user.

      So switching to doing things aereo style would require a cable company to massively re-engineer things.

    • by uncqual (836337)

      The cable companies may run into a problem doing what you suggest unless they send a separate stream from the antenna designated for your exclusive use to your (and, only your) STB. That would be a lot of duplicated bandwidth on the cable on Superbowl Sunday or after a 9/11 so I imagine quite a bit of infrastructure upgrade would be required.

      Aereo seems to avoid the "public performance" in part by sending a dedicated stream to you (and only you), albeit over shared internet infrastructure. (I assume that if

      • by bored (40072)

        (I assume that if 1000 of their customers record the latest episode of Big Bang, they keep 1000 copies of it - if not, their argument would be a bit weaker).

        And I wonder what that means.. In an age of deduplicated storage your storage vendor's stack is going to detect that there are 1000 copies of the same shit on the storage device and only actually store one copy.

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:29PM (#46825879)

      If Aereo wins, the cable companies would be able to save money by erecting Aereo-style antenna arrays for their cable feeds, bypassing payments to the networks.

      It's not just the antennae, Aereo keeps and transmits an individual copy of the show which owned specifically by the user requesting it. Unless Cable is going to set up a channel on the line for each and every subscriber, which can only be accessed by them and many of which will be duplications of each other, they don't have the same legal justification. Now, they could do it the same way Aereo does it, saving the shows for each customer and delivering it over an IP video stream, but they can't just broadcast it to all their subscribers as a single "channel".

      The fact that it's cheaper to create thousands of antennae and record thousands of hours of duplicated content and then deliver it using internet bandwidth rather than paying a fee to the providers and doing a simple broadcast says a lot about whats wrong with the content industry.

    • I think they will rule that Aereo is a cable company and is required to pay the fee. Congress wrote a special law that requires cable companies to pay the fees. Congress did this in reponse to a court ruling saying something similer to your position.
    • by doconnor (134648)

      I Canada OTA broadcasters don't get money from cable companies, but they manage to survive. (Non-OTA channels do get some money from cable companies)

      Of course, in recent years the cable companies now own all the OTA broadcasters.

  • Over the air (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cmdr-Absurd (780125) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:45PM (#46825413)
    (IANAL). I was quite surprised this even reached the high court. The broadcasters have a revenue model of paying by putting ads in front of eyeballs. This service arguably helps them meet that goal. Yes, I'm sure they'd like to double-dip and get paid for the "rebroadcast," but if you are giving your product away for free over the public airwaves, you should not be allowed to complain about where folks choose to locate their antennas. Be happy for the extra eyeballs.
    • by Monoman (8745)

      This!

      Nobody has been able to demonstrate how Aereo is harming the broadcasters. Why? Because they are actually helping them.

    • by necro81 (917438)
      Indeed - Aereo is delivering my eyeballs to broadcasters I couldn't access before. I live in an area where there are 4 channels available over the air, and only one of the major networks (without resorting to directional, amplified antennas). About 70 miles away is a major metro area with tens of channels available. I can sign up for Aereo and access those channels that just don't reach out here.

      (I haven't, because I don't watch enough broadcast TV to justify even having Aereo. I don't have cable,
  • Oh god yes!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:46PM (#46825423)

    Yes, please!! Please kill the cloud!!

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @12:59PM (#46825563) Homepage
    Some idiot decided that it was reasonable for people that broadcast their programing over the air for free to then charge other people to retransmit it.

    It was a bad law in the first place, poorly written, which let the networks charge money to cable people when their entire original business was charging advertisers and giving their stuff away for free.

    Suddenly you let them charge others for their stuff that they agreed to give away for free originally and this caused the problems.

    Aero are not doing anything wrong. The people doing wrong things are the over the air free TV networks that are charging.

    The real truth is that the over the air for free model is OUTDATED - just like the buggy whips. I know of nobody actually using the radio waves. They only work in small areas and are only profitable if there is a large population. But in those areas you get so much more from cable TV.

    In areas with less population, the over the air broadcasters are not profitable.

    • There is nothing that matches the quality of over-the-air. In large cities there can be quite a few OTA channels and the picture is amazing.

      Where I live, on the other hand, we have two channels. Amazing picture, poor selection.

    • by Ronin Developer (67677) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:21PM (#46825775)

      First, the primary networks are required, by law, to provide OTA service. They were also required to transmit in digital vs the older, analog signal. Supposedly, the digital signals can transmit further and can support error correction (to eliminate ghost images).

      As another poster noted, IF you are in range of to receive the OTA broadcast, the HD picture is of higher quality that what you would get via cable. Why? Cable network providers must compress the signal resulting in signal degradation. OTA can send the full, uncompressed digital signal. One of these days, I will have to see if I can receive the signal where I live...probably not.

      • by SemiChemE (3528759) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:05PM (#46826387)
        Digital signals do not transmit further than Analog signals! In fact, the range of a watchable signal is severely reduced. The clarity of the digital signal is significantly better and remains nearly perfect until the edge of the transmission range, but beyond that it completely degrades, whereas the analog signal is of poor quality, but still viable for many more miles.
      • by bored (40072)

        OTA can send the full, uncompressed digital signal

        I think your a little confused. The OTA (ATSC) standard is still sending compressed video (mostly MPEG2) , just that the bit rate tends to be higher than what most (some?) cable companies provide for their digital content.

        See also netflix, which tends to have even lower "HD" quality than the cable companies. With the advent of lossy compression the quality of a show just as much to do with bitrate and compression algorithm than resolution/color depth/framera

  • I suppose you could make Aereo's analogy to cloud storage if their business were primarily to allow you to upload content to them for streaming to your mobile devices wherever you are. That would make certain sense, and the privacy of the user to upload whatever they want should outweigh the rights of the networks to snoop on users to try to catch unauthorized uses of their copyrighted content.

    But the service Aereo is selling is a 'cheap DVR in the cloud', which is a very different thing. I suppose the bi

  • by Chirs (87576) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:03PM (#46825607)

    One of the justices asked flat-out if there were technical advantages to having multiple antennas or if it was just a way to get around copyright, and the lawyer dodged the question.

    *Of course* the primary reason for having multiple antennas is copyright. It is exactly *because* they have multiple antennas that what they're doing is legal under current copyright law. By ducking and evading the question, the lawyer just looks shady.

    From a technical point of view they'd be far better off with a pair of redundant antennas, storing all the shows from all the channels (with deduplication), and then serving them to their subscribers on demand. But that's clearly not allowed under current law.

    • You seem to be intimating that the ridiculous efforts Aereo had to go to, to get the single to another part of the country was Aereos fault. It's not. The single is broadcast by the network of their own will... the user could, technically, set up their own highly sensitive antenna equipment and amplifiers and get a TV signal from any station in the country... but that would be very expensive. The idea that there's a distinction between such a setup, relaying the data across IP or the crazy Antenna setup tha

  • The antenna array is a beautiful piece of marketing by Aereo. Who could object to renting an antenna?

    And, in fact, if the output of that antenna -- that is, the radio-frequency signal -- was transmitted to the home (as CableVision was doing back in the day) I think that Aereo would have an slam dunk. But that's not what they are doing.

    They are converting the microwatt signal coming out of these antennas a few times. First, they are separating out just the channel that the user wants to watch, then they a

    • I have an non-rented version of Aereo right now in my house.

      I own a TV Antenna in my attic, and a HDHomeRun box that sits in my wiring closet. The TV antenna goes to the HDHomeRun, which then converts the microwatt signal coming out of the antenna a few time, first separating out the channel i want to watch, then digitizing that signal, then streams it over TCP/IP to my HTPC, which then saves it to a HDD for later playback.

      If I move it across town and access it via a VPN does it suddenly make it illegal?

      Th

    • Actually thier argument is it would be illegal to just take the output and transmit it because Congress outlawed what CableVision did in 1992. Digitizing the signal for a single channel is how they are different from CableVision.
    • by nsaspook (20301)

      The antenna array is actually solid engineering and science. Saying each element belongs to one person is a hoot.

      The dime size antenna (that looks to approximate the LC values in each small section of a lossy transmission line used as a receive Metamaterial antenna) for each listener.
      http://individual.utoronto.ca/... [utoronto.ca]

      This is what happens when engineers and lawyers talk.

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:13PM (#46825707) Homepage

    Suppose I rent an apartment in New York, and I setup an antenna to pick-up New York broadcasts. Then I stream those broadcasts to my TV at home. Have I illegally retransmitted the signal and I need to pay a licensing fee?

  • by Scot Seese (137975) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @01:16PM (#46825725)

    As I see it, both parties are missing incredible opportunities.

    Let's Judo-flip this conversation.

    Broadcasters earn revenue from advertising. Aero is faithfully streaming content including all advertising to their customers. Clearly what is needed is a partnership for Aero to report viewer demographics back to broadcasters, who can pad onto their numbers when selling ads.

    Aero is charging too little for their service. Their model is stupid. They are trying to counter cable carriers charging $50, 60, 100+/mo with a service that's $8 and $12. Aero should charge $29 and kick $15 per customer per month to the cable carrier(s) in the market in which each customer resides. Aero is then in the infrastructure business. The cable companies get build out absolutely free, without having to sink billions of dollars into last mile wiring of neighborhoods, and Aero gets massive revenue stream in a highly symbiotic relationship. For Aero customers, the cable company is is the content licensing and resale business - and the best part - they don't have to service & support those customers, Aero does.

    Addtionally, if Aero has such a wonderful idea, there is nothing stopping Comcast from doing exactly the same thing. What is more expensive - the cost of bandwidth, or the cost of pulling copper, telephony or fiber to every house * N tens of millions of customers? Bandwidth is down for a few cents per gigabyte streamed now. How much does a nationwide fiber buildout cost?

    This case is really about constipated thinking and reactionary fear in the face of changing climate.

  • If the [sic] constitutes a 'public performance,' then so does the act of downloading a copyrighted document stored in a cloud storage service

    Who stored the copyrighted document on the cloud storage device? If it was the user who had already purchased the rights to said storage from the provider of the copyrighted content then there's no problem at all. If it was the cloud service itself or somebody else that stored it there, ready for any end user who pays for the service to access it, then I can see t

  • Pirate bay (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @02:00PM (#46826319)

    I just want to point out to any Aereo users that should they get shut down, you can still go back to the Pirate bay and start real piracy again. It's a lot easier than this nonsense, all the commercials are edited out for you already AND if you thought you were sticking it to the broadcasting industry before, you'd really be sticking it to them now.

    • I just want to point out to any Aereo users that should they get shut down, you can still go back to the Pirate bay and start real piracy again. It's a lot easier than this nonsense, all the commercials are edited out for you already AND if you thought you were sticking it to the broadcasting industry before, you'd really be sticking it to them now.

      No Aereo user ever got a nastygram from the MPAA.

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