Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court To Shut Down Aereo

Siding with TV broadcasters, the Obama administration is asking the Supreme Court to rule that Aereo's streaming television service is unlawful.

“A company that retransmits copyrighted broadcast television programs must obtain a license,” the Department of Justice argues in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Supreme Court late Monday. The administration adds that Aereo's unauthorized streams violate the licensing requirement, and therefore, infringe the broadcasters' copyright.

Aereo streams over-the-air television programs to paying subscribers' iPads, iPhones and other devices. The company also enables people to “record” programs and watch them later.

TV broadcasters are suing Aereo for allegedly infringing copyright by transmitting programs without a license. The broadcasters say that Aereo's streams are “public” performances, which require authorization.

But Aereo says it's legal, due to its design, which relies on antennas to capture programs and then stream them to users. Aereo argues that the streams are private, because they're done on an antenna-to-user basis.

The Supreme Court recently agreed to decide whether Aereo's streams are public -- in which case they infringe copyright -- or private. The case has drawn much interest, along with friend-of-the-court briefs from a variety of groups, including the National Association of Broadcasters and Center for Democracy & Technology.

The Obama administration says in its brief it agrees with broadcasters that Aereo's streams are public performances. “Because [Aereo's] system transmits the same underlying performances to numerous subscribers, the system is clearly infringing....Although each transmission is ultimately sent only to a single individual, those transmissions are available to any member of the public who is willing to pay the monthly fee.”

At the same time, the government also says that cloud services -- which allow people to access music, movies or other media on a variety of devices -- don't infringe copyright. “One function of cloud-computing services is to offer consumers more numerous and convenient means of playing back copies that the consumers have already lawfully acquired,” the DOJ writes. “A consumer’s playback of her own lawfully acquired copy of a copyrighted work to herself will ordinarily be a non-infringing private performance, and it may be protected by fair-use principles as well.”

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 22, and is expected to issue a decision in June.

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5 comments about "Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court To Shut Down Aereo".
  1. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications , March 5, 2014 at 6:05 a.m.
    I regret that the administration is on the wrong side of this issue as history will show, just you wait...
  2. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate , March 5, 2014 at 9:28 a.m.
    Why did the Obama administration see a need to publicly weigh in on this matter? How much money did the networks' owners donate to his campaign?
  3. Mark Rotblat from TubeMogul , March 5, 2014 at 10:39 p.m.
    Perhaps if Aereo bought antennas for each subscriber (and they could pass that one time cost to the subscriber), the content would be deemed lawfully acquired as it would be on a one-antenna-to-one-subscriber basis.
  4. Robin Solis from synchronicity.co , March 5, 2014 at 11:34 p.m.
    @ Mark Rotblat Hey! That's what Aereo already does! Otherwise, this is an Orwellian outrage! I agree with Edmund Singleton.
  5. Robin Solis from synchronicity.co , April 26, 2014 at 3:52 p.m.
    Broadcast must move on into the digital interactive age. If it's not Aereo, it will be another one.