Advanced Television

Copyright Office: Aereo argument ‘fundamentally incorrect’

April 7, 2014

By Colin Mann

While a range of trade bodies and consumer groups have line up behind Aereo in its forthcoming Supreme Court hearing with the major broadcast networks by filing amicus (friend of court) briefs, an important voice has expressed an opinion in the form of Copyright Office general counsel Jacqueline C Charlesworth.

Speaking at the American Bar Association’s Intellectual Property Law Conference in Washington, Charlesworth told delegates intellectual property lawyers that the legal basis for Aereo’s antenna-based online television streaming service was“fundamentally incorrect”.

According to Law360, Charlesworth said the “very important case” had implications far beyond the particular business model, that really goes to on-demand or interactive streaming services in general. “Taken to its logical extreme … it would threaten a lot of existing systems where content owners are receiving royalties,” she advised.

Aereo’s argument is based on the so-called Cablevision ruling, which said that a remote-site DVR offered by a cable provider that made copies for users and then beamed them back to the home merely made a “private performance” under the Copyright Act’s Transmit Clause, citing the fact that it sent individual copies to individual users.

According to Charlesworth, the administration believes the interpretation of the Transmit Clause is “fundamentally incorrect”, backing the networks’ contention that the clause was imposed in the last copyright update specifically to overturn Supreme Court rulings that said cable companies could rebroadcast over-the-air signals without paying.

The similar FilmOnX service has been declared illegal by courts in California and Washington, D.C., with both of those cases having been stayed pending the outcome of the Aereo case at the high court.


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