By the Blouin News Technology staff

Aereo forewarns of cloud impact in Supreme Court case

by in Media Tech.

CEO of Aereo Chet Kanojia, Director Brett Ratner and Journalist Charlie Rose. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

CEO of Aereo Chet Kanojia, Director Brett Ratner and Journalist Charlie Rose. Cindy Ord/Getty Images

Aereo has added its official voice to the pending Supreme Court case regarding the legality of its business practices, and it claims its presence in the tech industry is bigger than just a copyright debate.

Broadcasters want Aereo shut down for its practice of taking over-the-air programming and streaming it to its customers via individual antennae. They claim that Aereo is stealing their content and providing it to customers without paying retransmission fees. Aereo claims that it is within its rights as per regulations that allow recording of broadcasting, and reusing for personal purposes. By way of its antennae technology, Aereo says it performs a legal activity of recording programming — and makes money by gathering subscribers to access content more cheaply and conveniently than TV packages.


Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers

The back-and-forth has gotten dramatic: CBS’s CEO Leslie Moonves threatened to pull CBS off the air¬†earlier this month and to “come up with some other way to get [viewers] our content and still get paid for it.” The U.S. Department of Justice issued its own amicus brief to the Supreme Court in favor of the broadcasters. But now Aereo has sent its own brief to the Supreme Court in its defense, and brings the argument outside the narrow realm of whether it is violating copyright laws.

Aereo’s CEO Chet Kanojia claims that a decision by the Supreme Court in favor of broadcasters — resulting in Aereo either shutting down or forced to pay retransmission fees — will negatively impact the cloud computing and cloud storage industry. He said a decision against Aereo “would upend and cripple the entire cloud industry”.¬†The brief states:

Under the Copyright Act, petitioners have no right to royalties at all for retransmissions of their content within the original broadcast market. This Court should not rewrite the Copyright Act in an effort to protect petitioners from lawful and logical advancements in technology or from the economic consequences of their transmitting works for free over the public airwaves.

CNET notes that Kanojia’s March 26 statement regarding the case reinforced the history of the legislation that he says allows Aereo to do what it does:

Since the beginning of television, consumers have had a fundamental right to watch over-the-air broadcast television using an individual antenna, and they have had the right to record copies for their personal use since the US Supreme Court Sony Betamax decision in 1984.

Whatever the outcome, Kanojia is likely right that the decision will impact the cloud industry, as previous Supreme Court decisions will be at play, and actual recording and storing technology will be challenged.