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Justice Department to Supreme Court: Shut down Aereo and its funny little antennas

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The U.S. Department of Justice sided with the broadcasters in their legal fight against TV streaming upstart Aereo in an amicus letter filed with the U.S. Supreme Court Monday. The Supreme Court should overturn previous court decisions that ruled Aereo’s business model legal, the DOJ argued. The filing was first spotted by Recode.

The filing tried to separate Aereo from cloud media storage in general, as well as cloud DVRs like the Cablevision (S CVC) network DVR in particular. Both would simply give consumers access to recordings they own, it argued, whereas Aereo would try to conceal a public retransmission through technical gimmicks. “The existence of separate antennas serves no apparent operational purposes,” the filing states.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case against Aereo on April 22. The startup prevailed in previous court rulings, but was handed a legal setback two weeks ago when a federal district court issued a preliminary injunction against the service, forcing it to shut down in Utah and Colorado.

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7 Responses to “Justice Department to Supreme Court: Shut down Aereo and its funny little antennas”

  1. UGEplex

    This is ridiculous, as Aereo is completely in the clear here, so to speak. We’re allowed to use an antenna and DVR. There is no question about that in the law.

    So a smart entrepreneur comes along in the form of Aereo and sets up antennas & a DVR service, and rents them to us. How we use them is up to us. I see nothing wrong with this at all.

    More importantly, I only have 1 cable company available to me here in NYC, and their service was so poor and unreliable I had to cancel it after repeated technician appointments and cable-box replacements (which were their own special kind of horror story). Additionally, aerial television reception is almost non-existent here.

    So a service like Aereo is my only option for local broadcast news and entertainment. Meaning, it’s also the only way advertisers are going to get their TV ads to me as well. They should be supporting Aereo and cheering them on, for doing what local TV and cable companies are completely failing to do, which is provide me with a good signal so my family can view their content, including the ads.

  2. J. S. Greenfield

    The trouble with the Solicitor General’s argument is that it contradicts itself. It disqualifies Aereo as constituting an equipment rental, on the basis that antennas are assigned dynamically, rather than statically, and that while the antennas are individually-assigned, “respondent’s centralized server and other shared equipment are integral to the process by which content is transmitted.” However, these criticisms apply equally to Cablevision’s RS-DVR and other cloud-based personal storage lockers, which the Solicitor General’s argument accepts as tantamount to equipment rental.

    It can’t be both at the same time. The only plausible conclusion is that all infringe, or none infringe.

    For more details, see:

  3. Sounds good to me. I think artists, like all workers, should have the right to determine what happens to their work. The decision should be that of the artists.

    • UGEplex

      The artists aren’t involved here at all, in any way. By the time broadcasters are involved, the artists are lucky to even get a royalty payment. Aereo actually provides an accountable method for proving who’s watching a show, meaning an accountable way for artists to get paid, and that’s the last thing broadcasters want.

  4. tetracycloide

    Of course the extra antennas serve no technical purpose, they exist only to follow the letter and spirit of our convoluted copyright laws. Let’s hope SCOTUS has the good sense to ignore our corrupt ‘justice’ department and rule property owners have a right to rent space and equipment.

  5. Balthazar B

    I’ll have to read the brief, but on first blush this seems like a clear example that Money Talks. I guess Holder & Co. know who is buttering their bread.