Last updated: July 13, 2012 - 8:33am
[Commentary] “Today’s decision shows that if you can find a judge ignorant as to the basics of intellectual property law and willing to disregard the long history of television retransmission precedents, you can build a whole new business on stealing billions of dollars’ worth of video content.”
Aereo brazenly asserts that because it picks up local TV channels with a tiny, separate TV antenna for each Aereo subscriber, it’s not in the same business as cable TV systems and DBS providers like DirecTV and Dish, which are required to make licensing deals with TV stations to retransmit their signals. Incredibly, Judge Nathan bought into Aereo’s laughable argument that the company was merely “renting antennas” to its subscribers. That would be like a store claiming that, because it pilfers merchandise from a distributor’s warehouse one item at a time, instead of by the truckload, it should be allowed to sell the goods without paying for them. What U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan blithely ignored is that the copyright rubric governing retransmission of television stations has never been in any way predicated on the method used to capture the stations’ signals. Whether those broadcasts are received via one master antenna, multiple antennas or, as is increasingly common with cable and DBS providers, through fiber optic connection to the local TV stations, is irrelevant. The video service provider is an intermediary that must forge a contract with a TV station in order to deliver the station’s content to subscribers.
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