The cable company has a stake in the high court’s view of Aereo: Cablevision opened the door for the streaming service in 2008 when it beat back a challenge by broadcasters to its remote storage DVRs. Courts in that case agreed with the cable company that there was little difference, in legal terms, between a DVR that stored shows miles away on a remote server vs a set-top box. Aereo says the same principle applies to its remote antennas: They pick up over-the-air TV the same way consumers would if they had an antenna at home. But Cablevision says, in an amicus brief today, that it disagrees with arguments from Aereo and broadcasters alike. The streaming service should be deemed illegal, Cablevision says, because it’s “functionally identical to a cable system” that must pay broadcasters for the right to retransmit their over-the-air signals. “The fact that Aereo delivers programming on an individualized basis through mini-antennas and hard-drive copies does not change the basic nature of its service.” But Cablevision says that broadcasters go too far when they argue that their copyrights give them broad rights to determine what happens with the shows that they transmit. That view, if upheld, would “imperil nearly any cloud technology that enables remote storage and playback” such as Amazon’s MP3 Store and player. Although broadcasters say they wouldn’t threaten such services, Cablevision says they “advance an overbroad prior performance theory and then, in an effort to avoid its absurd results, engraft on an ad hoc exception for cloud technologies.” A decision that upholds the broadcasters’ view would be dangerous: A Harvard Business School study, Cablevision says, found that its RS-DVR court victory led to investments of as much as $1.3B in cloud computing in the two-and-a-half years after the decision. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Aereo case on April 22.
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