Supreme Court’s Aereo decision an incoherent disaster

The more details that come out the more we realize how much of mess this is.
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The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Aereo, a firm that captures broadcast programming and lets subscribers stream it to digital devices, is in violation of copyright laws. The court reached its decision by concluding that regardless of the technology it uses, Aereo looks like a cable company, and therefore the law should treat it like a cable company.

The plaintiffs in this case were several large broadcasters, including ABC, Fox and Univision. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that Aereo’s services “infringed on their right to ‘perform’ their copyrighted works ‘publicly.’” The court held that “Aereo performs petitioners’ works publicly within the meaning of the Transmit Clause” of the Copyright Act.

In other words, the court ruled that Aereo infringes on broadcasters’ copyrights.

Justice Breyer, writing for the majority, noted, “Aereo’s activities are substantially similar to those of the CATV (community antenna TV) companies that Congress amended the (Copyright) Act to reach. … Aereo’s equipment may serve a ‘viewer function’; it may enhance the viewer’s ability to receive a broadcaster’s programs. It may even emulate equipment a viewer could use at home. But the same was true of the equipment that was before the Court, and ultimately before Congress, in Fortnightly and Teleprompter” (earlier cases involving CATV, which Congress amended the Copyright Act to regulate).

Justice Scalia mockingly paraphrased Breyer in his dissenting opinion: Aereo is in violation of the copyright law because, “(1) Congress amended the Act to overrule our decisions holding that cable systems do not perform when they retransmit over-the-air broadcasts; (2) Aereo looks a lot like a cable system; therefore (3) Aereo performs.”



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