Media Institute backs broadcasters in Aereo case
February 28, 2014
By Colin Mann
The Media Institute – a non-profit research foundation specialising in communications policy – has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the US Supreme Court in the case it says could have “disastrous” consequences for the US broadcasting industry. The Institute filed a brief in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., arguing that Aereo’s model for distributing broadcast content to its subscribers violates broadcasters’ rights under copyright law and is merely a blatant attempt to avoid paying licensing fees.
Aereo employs a technological scheme involving thousands of dime-sized antennas to make individual copies of broadcast content, which it then retransmits to its subscribers. The company claims that since each copy is intended for a single user, the company is not creating a ‘public performance’ of the copyrighted content that would require payment of licensing fees.
“If a picture tells a thousand words, a thousand antennas tell the picture,” the brief states. “Aereo’s bizarre engineering, employing thousands of antennas to do the work of one, reveals to all what is really going on.” Aereo’s practices amount to “manipulative technological exploitation,” the brief says.
The Institute’s brief argues that Aereo’s model relies on “technological contrivances that serve no purpose other than to provide a pretext of legal cover, allowing Aereo to traffic in copyrighted content without paying for it”. Moreover, Aereo’s unlicensed retransmissions pose a massive threat to the settled economic and legal arrangements that undergird the broadcast industry.
The brief explains in detail why the decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upholding Aereo’s practices is wrong and should be rejected by the Supreme Court. The brief concludes by asking the Court to reverse the judgement of the Second Circuit and to rule in favour of the broadcasters.