Lawmakers, Lobbyists, React to Aereo Ruling

MULTIPLE CITIES—Reactions rolled in after the ruling. Lawmakers and lobbyists alike weighed in.

“While the court ruled that Aereo had overstepped, invention and innovation are at the heart of America’s global leadership in communications and technology development,” said House Commerce Committee chairman, Fred Upton (R-Mich.). “This case underscores the mounting need to modernize the 80-year-old Communications Act, which serves as an important, yet outdated, framework for the communications industry. We will continue laying the groundwork toward a #CommActUpdate to bring our laws into the innovation era so that the United States can continue leading the world in developing groundbreaking technologies that drive job creation and support consumer choice, economic growth, and social discourse.”
#CommActUpdate” is the committee’s hashtag, website catch-all for its Communications Act update proposals and progress.

Oregon Republican Greg Walden, House Communications and Technology Subcommittee co-chairman, said, “The court’s decision reminds us that the complex communications and technology marketplace is constantly innovating and rapidly changing, and that nuances in the law can have a profound effect on content providers and consumers. Providing consumers with a vibrant and innovative content delivery system in the 21st century is an important objective of our #CommActUpdate. In that effort, we will carefully balance the competing marketplace interests to make sure that this industry continues to innovate, localism is preserved, and consumers ultimately come out on top.”

And Bob Latta, (R-Ohio), also so a Comm and Tech Subcom chair, “The ABC v. Aereo case highlights the regulatory uncertainty that exists in the rapidly evolving video marketplace as a result of our country's outdated communications laws. I look forward to working with Chairman Walden in engaging in a comprehensive review of the Communications Act to ensure our policies foster robust investment and innovation in the 21st century digital economy.”

The National Association of Broadcasters was among the first. NABPresident and CEOGordon Smith said

“NAB is pleased the Supreme Court has upheld the concept of copyright protection that is enshrined in the constitution by standing with free and local television. Aereo characterized our lawsuit as an attack on innovation; that claim is demonstrably false. Broadcasters embrace innovation every day, as evidenced by our leadership in HDTV, social media, mobile apps, user-generated content, along with network TV backed ventures like Hulu.

“Television broadcasters will always welcome partnerships with companies who respect copyright law. Today's decision sends an unmistakable message that businesses built on the theft of copyrighted material will not be tolerated.”

And this, from Gene Kimmelman, president and CEO of Public Knowledge, a consumer lobby that supported Aereo:

“It is very unfortunate for consumers that the Supreme Court has ruled against Aereo, which has provided an innovative service that brings consumers more choices, more control over their programming, and lower prices,” he said. “We’re concerned that the court’s misreading of the law leaves consumers beholden to dominant entertainment and cable companies that constantly raise prices and gouge consumers. 
"This decision, endangering a competitive choice for consumers, makes it all the more important for the Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission to guard against anti-competitive consolidation, such as the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger.”

Mark Schultz, co-founder of the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property at George Mason University School of Law, as well as co-director of Academic Programs at CPIP, said, “Despite what some are saying, this decision is a boon, not a threat, to innovation. Studios and TV networks are investing hundreds of millions of dollars into new business models and are licensing their creative works to dozens of new entrants. They can now continue to make these innovative investments with greater certainty that they won’t be undermined by overly technical interpretations of their rights.”

Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, said the ruling left fair use intact.

“We are disappointed that the Supreme Court today ruled against innovator Aereo, but are pleased the Court said it favored future innovation and specifically referred to the Sony Betamax principles of fair use as a safety valve for new services and technologies. We especially appreciate Justice Scalia’s powerful dissent describing how innovation is often opposed by incumbents who make false, ‘the sky is falling’ predictions about the future.

“We have concerns that the Court, although welcoming innovation, also declared that ‘to the extent commercial actors…may be concerned with the relationship between the development and use of such technologies and the Copyright Act, they are of course free to seek action from Congress.’ We believe laws should be clear and favor innovation. Innovators should not have to get ambiguous laws changed to give consumers new products and services.

“More, the decision raises issues on the future of broadcasting. Given that consumers are increasingly choosing to view content ‘anytime/anywhere’ on smartphones and tablets, and only six percent of Americans rely exclusively on over-the-air television, we question how much longer broadcasters can claim to justify their use of public spectrum when they oppose innovative services like Aereo which expand their viewing audience.”

And the actors’ union, “SAG-AFTRA applauds the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Aereo case, which sends a clear and strong message that the Court will not permit companies like Aereo to use inconsequential technical workarounds to evade Congress’ intent to protect content creators and owners in the Copyright Act.

“By adopting a practical analysis that recognizes the extraordinary similarity between Aereo and the cable systems Congress expressly regulated in the Act, the Court rightly focuses on the use of copyrighted works and refused to be sidetracked by the inconsequential technical details with which Aereo attempted to cloak itself. But in doing so, the Court properly limited the scope of the decision so that cloud services and other technological innovations are neither inhibited nor limited. This decision gives the creative community greater confidence that copyright law cannot be so simply evaded and restores the proper balance to the system.”

Aereo’s own chief executive, Chet Kanojia, characterized the ruling as a “massive setback for the American consumer.” (See “Aereo Chief Says Court Ruling is ‘Chilling.’