Deborah D. McAdams /
CEA Friends Aereo
Lobby files amicus brief for startup broadcasters are suing for piracy
ARLINGTON, VA.: The Consumer
Electronics Association has filed an amicus brief for Aereo, the New York
startup that’s retransmitting broadcast TV signals without permission. Several
broadcasters in that city are suing the service over copyright violation.
“CEA is joining an amicus brief in the Aereo case as the case will hinge on
basic principles from the 1984 Supreme Court Sony Betamax case, the Magna Carta
decision of our industry defining full recording of broadcast television as a
fair use and allowing innovation in technology,” said CEA President and CEO
Gary Shapiro in a statement today.
The CEA joined the Computer and Communications Industry Association in filing a
friend-of-the-court brief for Aereo with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit. The CCIA is an industry association that includes IAC, an Internet
company headed by Aereo’s backer, Barry Diller.
Diller claims Aereo has the right to rebroadcast TV signals without gaining
retransmission consent on the basis of Cartoon
Network, LP v. Cablevision. In that case, programmers sued Cablevision for copyright
infringement over its remote digital video recording service. The Second
Circuit in 2008 determined that the DVR service did not violate copyrights
because it did not fit the legal definition of “public performance.” I.e., if a
transmission is made available to just one individual, it’s not a considered a
Aereo says it similarly provides broadcast content to subscribers by
recording it to a cloud-based server, and making it available through
individually leased antennas for reception on mobile devices. The service
launched in New York in March with 20 over-the-air TV channels. Broadcasters
sought an injunction to stop Aereo while the copyright challenge was under
review, but a federal judge denied the request based on Cablevision. The cable operator responded with an amicus brief on
the side of broadcasters.
asked the court to reconsider the injunction on the basis of significant
differences between its own DVR service and Aereo. Cablevision pays retransmission
fees, for one thing. Additionally, it’s remote DVR service isn’t necessary for
the delivery of live programming, unlike Aereo’s. Cablevision also noted that
Aereo subscribers are “randomly assigned an antenna each time they use the
system,” which essentially comprises “public performance.”
Cablevision also challenged the comparison of Aereo to the Sony case, which established fair use.
“Nothing in Sony supports the view that a copy made
for one valid ‘fair use’ purpose, such as time-shifting, may also be used for
other, invalid purposes, such as watching live television through an otherwise
unlawful retransmission service, particularly where that other invalid purpose
is the primary reason for the copy,” Cablevision’s brief said.
Aereo in fact offers a free level of
service that comprises “Live Only” DVR storage space for watching local TV “for
one continuous hour a day.” A one-day pass with three-hours of storage costs $1
and includes two antennas “so you can record two shows at once. Or watch one
show while recording another.” For $8 a month, Aereo offers two antennas and 20
hours of storage, while $12 a month or $80 for the year gets 40 hours with two
antennas. The service works through several desktop browsers, Apple devices and
The copyright challenge, brought by Fox, Univision, PBS, CBS, NBC ABC,
Telemundo and several local TV stations, remains pending with the court.
Also see Aereo Files for Patent on Out-of-Market Streaming at Multichannel News.