DOJ urges Supreme Court to rule against Aereo

Steven Loeb · March 4, 2014 · Short URL:

In a legal brief, the DOJ says Aereo is "clearly infringing" on the copyright of broadcasters

(Updated to reflect comment from  Aereo)

TV streaming Aereo is going to have the fight of its life when it goes before the Supreme Court later this year. It is going to have to try to convince the court that, basically, it should be allowed to exist. If it loses, then it's light out.

The company will certainly have its supporters, including people who want to stream their television without having to pay for it. There is one major entity that will be rooting against it, though: the United States Department of Justice.

The DOJ filed a brief with the Supreme Court on Monday, urging it to take the side of broadcasters who are fighting against Aereo, saying that the company is "clearly infringing" on their copyrighted material.

In doing so, the Justice Department also asked the Supreme Court to reverse the decision of a lower court that found in favor of Aereo.

The big issue that the broadcasters have with Aereo is over retransmission fees, which requite cable operators, other distributors, to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming. Operators will often be asked to pay to carry the station.

Broadcast networks, like Fox and CBS, have said they might just quit the free TV business altogether if Aereo is allowed to survive. Sports leagues, including NFL and MLB, have also threatened to jump to cable.

The service was originally  launched in New York City in March 2012 and has since expanded to Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Salt Lake City, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Baltimore and Austin.

Still, while the Justice Department wants Aereo to lose, it also urged the Court to issues some restrait and "not threaten the legality of cloud computing."

Cloud computing, it say s in the brief, lets users have access to content that they have acquired legally, while Aereo allows its users to get access to content that they have no paid for. The Justice Department see this as a good thing.

“A decision rejecting respondent's infringing business model and reversing the judgment below need not call into question the legitimacy of innovative technologies that allow consumers to use the Internet to store, hear, and view their own lawfully acquired copies of copyrighted works,” it said in the brief

Here is a statement from Aereo's CEO and founder Chet Kanojia on the lawsuit from December:

“Aereo provides to consumers antenna and DVR technology. With Aereo, a consumer tunes an individual, remotely located antenna and makes personal recordings on a cloud DVR.  The Aereo technology is functionally equivalent to a home antenna and DVR, but it is an innovation that provides convenience and ease to the consumer. The plaintiffs are trying to deny consumers the ability to use a more modern antenna and DVR by trying to prevent a consumer’s access to these technologies via the cloud," he wrote.

“Consumers have the right to use an antenna to access the over-the-air television. It is a right that should be protected and preserved and in fact, has been protected for generations by Congress. Eliminating a consumer’s right to take advantage of innovation with respect to antenna technology would disenfranchise millions of Americans in cities and rural towns across the country."

VatorNews reached out to Aereo to get a comment on the letter, but the company had nothing to say at this time,

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