The copyright infringement litigation pitting startup Aereo against several major broadcasters is now underway. Because the decision could shake up how consumers get their television, the media and technology industries are closely watching the case.
Aereo’s new service will take broadcast television signals for the New York-area television stations and retransmit them over the Internet to Aereo subscribers. The plaintiffs, which include Fox Television, PBS, and ABC, argue that because Aereo has not licensed this television programming, it will be committing copyright infringement.
In opening statements, a lawyer for the broadcasters reiterated those claims. “Aereo is taking the plaintiffs’ broadcast signals and reprocessing them so they can be streamed over the Internet,” the attorney stated. “That is a violation of copyright law.”
Meanwhile Aereo contends that its new technology does not constitute copyright infringement because it will provide all customers with their own set of “rabbit ears” antennas. The video will then be digitally processed, returned to the servers, and finally streamed to users over the Internet. “Consumers are legally entitled to access broadcast television via an antenna and they are entitled to record television content for their personal use,” Aereo has stated.
This case will be interesting to follow. The only existing precedent involves a lawsuit involving a “remote DVR” system created by Cablevision. Similar to Aereo, the DVR was located on a Cablevision server rather than in the customer’s home.
In that case, a federal appeals court ultimately concluded that Cablevision was not liable for copyright infringement because users selected the programs that were recorded and replayed, and Cablevision stored a separate copy of each program for each customer rather streaming one copy to all customers. Many suspect Aereo will make a similar argument.
Source: Ars Technica