It's ALIVE!!!! Aereo Lurches Back to Life, Sort of

Trying to make lemonade out of the lemon handed to it by the Supreme Court, Aereo has come up with Plan B.

The best stories never really end when you think they’re going to, do they? There’s always a nifty twist that keeps the plot chugging along.

So we really didn’t expect that the Supreme Court’s decision was the last word in the Aereo case, did we?

And right we were.

After pulling the plug on its service within a couple of days after taking a seeming knock-out punch from the Supreme Court, Aereo has come up with a plan. According to a letter filed by Aereo with Judge Alison Nathan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (where the Aereo saga first got our attention back in 2012), Aereo is now a cable company that is entitled – by Congress, thank you very much – to retransmit over-the-air broadcast programming. As long, that is, as Aereo files the necessary “statements of account” and “royalty fees”required of cable systems. And in its letter Aereo advises that it “is proceeding” to file just those items.

Following the adage about making lemonade when handed lemons, Aereo has taken the Supreme Court’s decision and tried to turn it to Aereo’s advantage. Since the Supremes said that Aereo is “highly similar” to a conventional cable company, well then (according to Aereo), Aereo is a cable system and, therefore, “is entitled to a license” under Section 111 of the Copyright Act.

And even if it’s not entitled to such a license, Aereo’s got another argument. The Supreme Court concluded that Aereo is like a cable system because Aereo provides “near simultaneous” retransmissions of over-the-air programming. So (Aereo reasons) if Aereo’s service were to be limited to delayed (i.e., not “near simultaneous”) retransmissions – providing, instead, essentially an elaborate recording-and-playback service – then Aereo would no longer be like a cable system and would no longer be subject to the terms of the Supreme Court’s decision. (Blogmeister’s Note: Props to the Swami, Kevin Goldberg, for seeing this argument coming.)

Aereo’s argument is far from perfect. For example, while the Supremes did clearly indicate that Aereo is “highly similar” to a cable system, it’s a stretch to conclude (as Aereo does) that the Supreme Court issued a “holding that Aereo is a cable system under the Copyright Act”. A couple of years ago an operation called ivi, Inc., which provided an Internet-delivered system for streaming over-the-air programming and claimed it was a cable system, didn’t make it out of the starting gate. While Aereo’s system is arguably different in certain respects from ivi’s, the fact that ivi didn’t get very far should send Aereo a cautionary message.

How Judge Nathan will react to Aereo’s pirouette remains to be seen.

But, for now, Aereo lives on. It’s into Plan B and its now-proposed service is far from the service that got this melodrama started in 2012. But it’s still with us, at least for a while.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Mark - July 12, 2014 4:57 PM

The letter you link to was not written by Aereo's counsel; it was written by the plaintiff's counsel.

Harry Cole - July 12, 2014 6:39 PM

Mark --

As indicated in the second sentence of the letter, Judge Nathan ordered the parties to file a JOINT letter outlining their respective positions on how to proceed in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision. As a joint letter, the portions articulating Aereo's position are from Aereo -- and probably written by an Aereo representative -- regardless of whose signature (or letterhead) appears on the letter.

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