The big boys came out today on the side of the broadcasters in their upcoming appearance in front of the Supreme Court in the Aereo case. The solicitor general’s office put the Obama administration solidly in the anti-Aereo camp with a 40-page amicus brief (read it here) filed with the SCOTUS today. The broadcasters say that Aereo infringes on their copyrights by streaming their over-the-air signals without licenses or compensation. Aereo says that it simply leases out antennas and technology that consumers can already use to watch broadcast TV for free.
“The proper resolution of this dispute is straightforward,” the brief states. “Unlike a purveyor of home antennas, or the lessor of hilltop space on which individual consumers may erect their own antennas … respondent does not simply provide access to equipment or other property that facilitates customers’ reception of broadcast signals. Rather, respondent operates an integrated system—i.e., a ‘device or process’—whose functioning depends on its customers’ shared use of common facilities. The fact that as part of that system respondent uses unique copies and many individual transmissions does not alter the conclusion that it is retransmitting broadcast content ‘to the public.’ Like its competitors, respondent therefore must obtain licenses to perform the copyrighted content on which its business relies. That conclusion, however, should not call into question the legitimacy of businesses that use the Internet to provide new ways for consumers to store, hear, and view their own lawfully acquired copies of copyrighted works.”
The high court agreed in January to hear the case, and briefs from the broadcasters were due on February 24 and today. Aereo must submit its response to the petitioner’s brief by March 26 and send in an amicus curiae brief of its own by April 2. (more…)