updated 07:58 am EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
Joint letter suggests Aereo wants cable company-style licenses following Supreme Court decision
Aereo may have found a way to it to continue offering a service to subscribers with the key lying in the recent Supreme Court decision against the start-up. In a joint letter filed with the US District Court, the company claims that, since the Supreme Court ruled it operated as if it is a cable company, it should be eligible to the same statutory licenses cable companies use.
The courtroom battles between Aereo and broadcasters revolves around content licensing. Aereo claimed that it was providing a "non-public performance" to its users, a key clause of the Copyright Act, due to its use of assigned antennas and user-specific copies of shows recorded from broadcasts, and so should not be liable for the licenses. The Supreme Court believed otherwise, with the company giving all of the appearance of a cable company, despite its background machinations.
Aereo's letter states that, while it has represented itself as a company that isn't a cable service, the Supreme Court considers it otherwise, declaring it "substantially similar to," has an "overwhelming likeness" to, and "is for all practical purposes a traditional cable system." By arguing for the use of the same statutory licenses cable companies enjoy, this could allow Aereo to continue its operations, paying a much smaller amount than what the broadcasters would want it to pay, though it is extremely likely to impact the low $8 to $12 monthly subscription.
A blog post from founder and CEO Chet Kanojia states "We remain committed to building great technologies that create real, meaningful alternatives for consumers," as well as linking to the latest filed letter, and thanking the users for their "patience and continued support." Earlier this month, the start-up asked users to complain to lawmakers over the decision.
In the same letter, the broadcasters write about their dismay at Aereo's change in legal tactics. "It is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court's decision automatically transformed Aereo into a 'cable system' under Section 111 (of the Copyright Act) given its prior statements to this Court and the Supreme Court." The broadcasters claim that existing court business should play through before Aereo is allowed to make its new Section 111-based argument, as Aereo has "been violating Plaintiffs' exclusive rights to publicly perform their works for over two years, during which time Plaintiffs, as this Court held, have suffered irreparable harm."