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Television The Courts The Internet The Media Your Rights Online

Major Networks Suing To Stop Free Streaming 250

AstroPhilosopher writes "In a move similar to Hollywood's attempt to have the Supreme Court ban VCRs back in the 80's, ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and Univision are set to appear in court next month to urge a New York federal judge to block Aereo. 'Aereo lets those in New York who want to watch on their iPad what they can pull down for free from the public airwaves to their TV with an antenna.' The networks, however, say Aereo will cause irreparable harm to their business. Aereo's conduct apparently causes them to 'lose control over the dissemination of their copyrighted programming, disrupts their relationships with licensed distributors and viewers and usurps their right to decide how and on what terms to make available and license content over new internet distribution media.'"
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Major Networks Suing To Stop Free Streaming

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  • Derp, Meet Herp (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:31PM (#39675137)

    The networks, however, say Aereo will cause irreparable harm to their business. Aereo's conduct apparently causes them to 'lose control over the dissemination of their copyrighted programming, disrupts their relationships with licensed distributors and viewers and usurps their right to decide how and on what terms to make available and license content over new internet distribution media.'

    That's the exact same argument they used against VCRs. "They'll be able to bypass the advertisement! Share with their friends! Our business model will be in jeopardy." The only thing that's changed between then and now is that back then, the justices didn't support state-sponsored capitalism; That is, the privatization of profits and the socialization of costs.

    Which, actually, probably means even more citizens now will be taking the approach of "If a law is stupid, ignore it." -- Which is not healthy for a society, but unavoidable when the justice system has departed so far from the actual values and morals of the general population so as to have lost relevance.

  • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:31PM (#39675145) Journal

    then what difference does it make where you get it from? Maybe someone can make it clear for me exactly what their lawsuit is saying here.

    Good luck with that studios. Worked great for the music companies.... oh wait, no it didn't, they're owned by Apple now because Apple sells most of their music and the music companies could not survive without Apple.

    So sue away... until another Apple ends up owning you because you flatly refused to give customers what we're begging for and willing to pay for, an easy way to watch every TV ever created on every media device we own.

    If it wasn't for the stupidity of the music companies trying to sue napster and everyone there would have been no iPod, iTunes, iPhone or Android, because had the music companies made their own store and sold music then Apple would have never made billions off iTunes

  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <> on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:32PM (#39675157) Homepage Journal

    To understand the latest legal jockeying, substitute the term VCR with Aereo. The upstart, Aereo, opened for business last month and supplies internet streams and a DVR service for over-the-air broadcasts to its New York customers. In other words, Aereo lets those in New York who want to watch on their iPad what they can pull down for free from the public airwaves to their TV with an antenna. For the moment, the service is free, but will soon charge $12 monthly.

    This suggests to me the following:

    1. Aereo receives television signals over the public airwaves.
    2. Aereo rebroadcasts the signals through their internet distribution network.
    3. Aereo soon plans to charge for this service.

    If I was a TV station, I would have serious problems with steps 2 and 3, and I believe copyright law would agree (with the usual disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and you should not take legal advice from me).

    Just because it's broadcast over the public airwaves does not make the broadcast public domain. It's still copyrighted, and by redistributing the signal, it seems to be clear copyright infringement to me. If they want this to be legal, they appear to need new laws.

    This is not like a VCR because with a VCR, the distribution of video still happens directly from the copyright owner or their agent. This would be like a company renting a single movie, making copies, then charging for access to the copies, without compensating the original distributor.

    By the way, if this practice were legal, what's to prevent Aereo from charging even more to remove the commercials from their rebroadcasts entirely?

  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:33PM (#39675167)

    The Networks make deals based on the assumption that those airwaves are only accessible from in certain areas. Advertisers may or may not pay different fees based on the "market" their commercial would reach. It's a legitimate concern.

    A lot of these slow-changing old companies are trying to shoe-horn the world to fit their aging business models. They really should be adapting to the new realities of Technology in the Modern World. The market is shifting, and clinging to old revenue streams is merely going to put them behind.

    Lawsuit or no, their real concern should be the viability of their business model in a quickly evolving World.

  • by cforciea ( 1926392 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:35PM (#39675195)
    I think they have a couple of reasons for this lawsuit. First, they don't want any precedents set. A portion of this lawsuit is actually about how it is being streamed; specifically, there is a 1:1 ratio of antennas and users, and Aereo claims they are protected because they are just a long wire between the antenna and the user. If that argument holds for free over-the-air programming, it might be used later to protect streaming of something that is not quite so free. Also, they are probably worried about losing out on revenue from selling people the programming if they don't see it for free over the air when it broadcasts (or via DVR). They want additional advertising value to go to re-runs rather than disappearing into this system, and they are possibly scared it will hurt things like DVD/iTunes sales. They want to be in control as much as possible of any format swapping you do.

    Personally, I think they are shooting themselves in the foot, in that I bet they could negotiate advertising revenue by leveraging these additional live viewers, and this adds to the ever-increasing perception that the old school broadcasters are unfriendly to viewers because they can't keep up with the times, but those are of course the typical mistakes these people make anyway, so it isn't surprising.
  • by Gideon Wells ( 1412675 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:37PM (#39675241)

    'lose control over the dissemination of their copyrighted programming, disrupts their relationships with licensed distributors and viewers and usurps their right to decide how and on what terms to make available and license content over new internet distribution media.'"

    That is the key sentence, I believe. Back when TNN, I think it was them?, tried streaming their cable services to iPads there were comments from the industry that this was causing an up roar. Some being so blatantly honest to admit they were fast nearing the point of no longer even knowing what qualified as a "television". How much of the industry is built around a dumb box which displays images they send to it?

    What does it do to the industry now that televisions are increasingly becoming glorified computer monitors for watered-down/specialized computers? How much more is the line blurred when you can get television easily on your computer devices? This sounds like they are trying to halt the coming computer/television singularity by keeping television away from clearly computer devices.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:38PM (#39675257)

    I thought this battle had been fought and won in the VCR times.

    Since they are rebroadcasting from a central location, this isn't quite the same as the VCR case (as much as Aereo tries to make it so). This would be more like if a company was recording shows off the air onto VCR tapes and mailing them to subscribers. Which is quite a bit different than a user recording shows at home for later viewing.

  • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:43PM (#39675381)

    If your read the end of the article, what Aereo is doing may be legal.

    QUOTE: "The idea is to rely, in part, on a 2008 federal appeals court ruling known as Cablevision. That ruling, which the Supreme Court declined to review, said Cablevision Systemsâ(TM) cloud-based DVR service was legal only because each user who ordered Cablevision to make a copy of last Thursdayâ(TM)s Seinfeld got their own individual copy in their own folder in the companyâ(TM)s data center.

    "Hollywood claimed Cablevisionâ(TM)s service directly infringed its exclusive rights to both reproduce and to publicly perform their copyrighted works. In a highly complex and nuanced ruling, the court said individual consumers, not Cablevision, were copying and acquiring the material at their own discretion, which amounted to fair use.

    "That leaves some hope for Aereo. And the companyâ(TM)s got another thing going for it â" a deep-pocketed investor who appears willing to fund an expensive and lengthy court fight. Barry Diller, the chairman of internet company IAC/InterActiveCorp, has invested $20.5 million of the companyâ(TM)s money in Aereo. Ironically, Diller founded Fox Broadcasting in 1986, which is one of the plaintiffâ(TM)s suing Aereo."

  • by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:50PM (#39675527)

    Hopefully the courts will see it as such and Aero doesn't go bankrupt from fighting this.

    I think Aero going bankrupt from this is the general idea behind the lawsuit.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Friday April 13, 2012 @12:56PM (#39675649)

    You have to ask if their transmission constitutes a broadcast.

    After all, with AEREO you rent an antenna in NYC, and send it by TCP/IP over the internet. Its not that much different than sending it from the roof to your basement lair over a wire. You just have a really long antenna lead. Its exactly the same thins as a Slingbox hooked up to your roof antenna.

    Big media doesn't care about this as long as Aereo stays in one market, but they know that the internet gives Aereo a long antenna lead to anyplace.

    So yeah, its market control, but really its the fact that someone else found a way to make money off of the OTA feed. We can't have that now can we?

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:03PM (#39675807) Journal
    I've always found it ironic that cable TV got its start rebroadcasting OTA feeds to places with lousy reception(much against the preferences of the OTA broadcasters); but once it received government sanction and came into some money of its own, swiftly re-positioned itself as a crusading champion of the absolute dominion of broadcasters...

    These Aereo chaps are virtually identical, in terms of business model, to the original cable guys(except that they are bending over backwards to accommodate the absurdities of the law by having an individual antenna in a huge array for each subscriber...
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:11PM (#39675977) Journal
    I get the impression that Team Content wishes to operate under the legal theory that anything that happens to their precious content without their permission is illegal, period.

    They'd probably still be upset if somebody were using a clever arrangement of metallized balloons to bounce the RF from the New York broadcast region to wherever they wanted it... The fact that the filthy, filthy, internet, with its pernicious pirates is involved just drives them into a blind rage.
  • by similar_name ( 1164087 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:13PM (#39676019)
    As far as I'm concerned if a network doesn't want me watching their ads then it's no skin off my back. Networks make money by providing content and selling ads. However, it seems they are more concerned with controlling how I watch their content and ads. I understand they charge different rates for different markets. I understand they have licensing agreement with their affiliates. But none of that matters to me. It's really their problem.

    So if they don't want me as a customer I'm not going to put up a fight to be one. 90% of my TV watching is from the internet. I know not everyone has their TV hooked up to the internet nor does everyone watch their TV on tablets and other devices but things are moving that direction. The writing is on the wall. If I were a shareholder I would want the company to focus more on adapting their business model to these realities rather than wasting resources on litigation that does nothing to stop the inevitable.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:17PM (#39676113) Journal

    I believe it is a legitimate concern IF and ONLY IF people that stream from the iPads even watch commercials to begin with. What are the studios going to do next? Sue all the people that don't watch advertisements?

    As saith Jamie Kellner, Chairman and CEO of Turner Broadcasting: "[Ad skips are] theft. Your contract with the network when you get the show is you're going to watch the spots. Otherwise you couldn't get the show on an ad-supported basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you're actually stealing the programming."

    People who living outside of Jamie's delusional universe don't actually remember signing any contracts, much less any that meet the requirements of hundreds of years of contract law precedent, to watch OTA broadcasts; but it isn't a big secret that the broadcasters would love to...

  • Re:Derp, Meet Herp (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CroDragn ( 866826 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:18PM (#39676133)
    Anytime the laws are not reflecting the moral values of the society they're serving, it isn't healthy; it breeds a contempt for the law, the courts, and the government as a whole. Stupid laws need to be ignored, protested, and fought until they are brought back in line with social values as a whole, since after all it's society as a whole that laws are supposed to serve. The cases you pointed out serve to point this out actually; blacks were not being treated fairly with by the laws, and as a result still to this day don't particularly trust the legal system. The point is that when ever laws and society clash, the laws are usually the ones that need changing, the quicker the better.
  • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:38PM (#39676453)

    A Slingbox is okay because it's your own device rebroadcasting to you--fair use.

    Isn't this just a slingbox that I am renting?

  • Yeah, I don't know about this case, since it does seem to be a case of rebroadcasting. However, I think you're right to draw a comparison between the music industry of 10 years ago and the TV industry today.

    We all know the story: in the late 90s, once people had been exposed to Napster, most people knew where music distribution was going. People had been exposed to a system where they could search online for essentially any song ever, and then download it. Contrary to the way we sometimes talk about it, the revolutionary thing about Napster was not that it allowed piracy, but that it enabled people to easily fetch whatever song they wanted without leaving the house. It was perhaps the first exposure the masses had to the idea of a highly available massive online media library, and people loved the idea.

    If the record companies had been smart, they would have taken one look at this setup and said, "We need to make this happen. This needs to happen, and it will happen whether we like it or not, so let's get ahead of this thing. Let's figure out how to make money off of this thing immediately so we can be the first business into this market."

    Instead they stonewalled. They dragged their feet. The people running the record companies not only expressed that they weren't happy with online distribution, but they were even unhappy selling CDs and wanted to go back to vinyl. They tried to kill online services. When they made online services, they focused on preventing piracy, and they focused on creating synergistic marketing campaigns that would maximize shareholder value with a high ROI. What they didn't focus on, however, was making these services good.

    And then Apple came along, leveraged some industry connections and a popular music player, and Apple drank their milkshake. Too bad, so sad.

    Now the TV industry is doing the same thing. A growing number of people are asking, "Why can't I just have Netflix, but with all the TV shows and movies that I want to watch?" The people in the industry are dragging their feet, stonewalling, trying to prevent piracy, and engaging in bullshit marketing deals. They are not focused on making a good service that will make their customers happy. The only question is, will it be Apple drinking their milkshake again, or will it be someone else this time?

  • by DaKong ( 150846 ) on Friday April 13, 2012 @02:06PM (#39676899)

    There are a million things in the world to do that are more fulfilling than turning yourself into a mindslave for the content industries. Literally, a million. So go do them!

    The best thing that could happen from all the endless *AA's' lawsuits would be for everyone to switch off the slave, I mean, the TVs and stereos and go outside and discover any one of the million things to do that are not that. Or stay inside and discover the million things to do that are not sitting around waiting for some marketing jackass to tell you how to think or what to buy.

    If you like music, pick up an affordable guitar and teach yourself how to play. You might not ever achieve a respectable rendition of 'Stairway to Heaven,' but you will probably enjoy it much more than passively listening to a performance of the real thing. Likewise movies. Pick up your smartphone and shoot home movies of your kids. Nobody but you will ever enjoy them, but your family will enjoy them forever. And isn't that what's important?

    Stop living in the realm of other people's fantasies, especially when those fantasies come with real chains attached.

I am more bored than you could ever possibly be. Go back to work.