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The Right And Wrong Way How Aereo Works

Apr 23 2014, 2:16am CDT | by

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The Right And Wrong Way How Aereo Works
 
 

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The Right And Wrong Way How Aereo Works

Aereo, a service that lets users record broadcast TV shows over the internet and stream the recording to their mobile devices, is fighting for its life before the Supreme Court this week. (My colleague J.J. Colao is there following the case .)

There are good arguments to be made that Aereo’s business model, which involves arrays of thousands of tiny antennas, is a cynical and legalistic attempt to evade copyright protection. Then there are the bad arguments, one of which comes from New York magazine’s Kevin Roose .

Roose calls the Barry Diller -backed company “a clever bit of regulatory arbitrage masquerading as a start-up.” Aereo’s lawyers would quibble with that, but I won’t. But then Roose offers this analogy to prove his point:

I work at a magazine whose content is copyrighted. Currently, it’s illegal to scan an entire issue of New York, post it on your website as a PDF, and charge visitors for access to it. But it’s legal to browse a copy of New York at your local newsstand, read every article inside, and put it back without making a purchase. It’s probably even legal for your friend to go to the newsstand, pick up the latest issue of New York, read every article to you over the phone, and put it back on the shelf without buying it. (Though I don’t recommend this — it would be painfully slow, and newsstand operators wouldn’t like it.)

Imagine if you came up with an idea for a start-up — let’s call it Readeo — that would exploit this loophole. For $8 a month, Readeo would give you the right to rent a small, magazine-reading robot. Every time you wanted to read a New York article, you’d tap a button on your iPad, and your personal Readeo robot would be dispatched to the nearest newsstand, where it would pick up a copy of the magazine and read the article to you over the phone using OCR and speech software. Now imagine that, somehow, this process could be sped up to the point where it was nearly instantaneous — desire article, tap app, dispatch robot, read article — and where the robots could replicate pictures as well as words. You’d be getting a perfect, on-demand copy of New York’s editorial content anytime you wanted it, without paying a cent to the magazine.

And our lawyers would (I imagine) sue the bejeezus out of you.

A post about digital copyright law probably isn’t the best place for me to use such an extensive blockquote, but I wanted to convey the full weirdness of Roose’s analogy. It is a very bad one. Readeo is nothing like Aereo for the simple reason that the magazines at his hypothetical local newsstand are for sale. Yes, it is legal to stand at a newsstand and read magazines to your friend over the phone. It’s also legal for the newsstand owner to tell you — or a robot — to move along and get your damn hands/servo-grippers off his merchandise. That’s why calling it a “loophole” is silly. It’s like saying it’s a loophole that you can stand in the TV section of Best Buy all day and watch ESPN. Well, sure you can.

Aereo’s not trying to resell programming that’s already for sale. It’s only providing easier and more convenient access to programming the networks themselves are giving away for free. For Roose’s analogy to work, Readeo’s robots would have to restrict themselves to reading only free magazines and newspapers, like the Village Voice.

Better yet — because who wants to sit and listen to someone read an entire magazine? — let’s say Readeo worked like this: A robot goes to the newsstand, grabs a copy of each free newspaper you request, scans the pages in, and sends a link to the private online locker where you can view them.  If another user wants to read the same newspaper, the robot has to take two copies and scan them in separately.

How would the free newspapers involved react to this scheme? They would be thrilled with it. As long as the ads got scanned in along with the articles, it wouldn’t hurt them in the least. In fact, it would help them, because print readership is so much more lucrative than digital readership. (In my hypothetical reality, as in the real one, most newspapers have free websites that don’t bring in much ad revenue.)

And this is where my own analogy breaks down, because over-the-air TV isn’t really free — not anymore. Viewers who watch ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC with a (normal-sized) antenna are getting them for free, but the majority who watch them through a cable or satellite package are paying for the privilege, indirectly, via the billions of dollars in retransmission fees pay-TV providers render unto the networks.

It’s kind of convoluted that viewers who choose to pay for one variety of TV service therefore also have to pay for another variety of service that would be free if the signals entered their homes via an antenna rather than a cable or a dish. It’s so convoluted that it resists simplification by analogy.

 

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Update: 11

Aereo Shut Down, But Does It Have a Future as a Cable Company?

Source: Fool.com

The company wants to try again -- this time actually paying for the content ...
Source: Fool.com   Full article at: Fool.com Jul 18 2014, 10:09am CDT
 


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Update: 10

The Switchboard: Another setback for Aereo

Source: The Washington Post

Published every weekday, the Switchboard is your morning helping of hand-picked stories from The Switch team. Join us for Switchback, our weekly livechat, Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern! Come hang out with The Switch's writers to talk tech policy, gadgets and nerd culture. You can submit your comments an ...
Source: The Washington Post   Full article at: The Washington Post Jul 18 2014, 7:27am CDT
 

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Update: 9

No good alternative for Aereo cord cutters without antennas

Source: Car Craft

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET's Marguerite Reardon explains why the Supreme Court's Aereo decision was so ba ...
Source: Car Craft   Full article at: Car Craft Jul 18 2014, 6:00am CDT
 

Update: 7

No good alternative for Aereo cord cutters without antennas

Source: CNet

In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET's Marguerite Reardon explains why the Supreme Court's Aereo decision was so bad for "cord cutters. ...
Source: CNet   Full article at: CNet Jul 18 2014, 6:00am CDT
 

Update: 6

richm wrote a new blog post: Aereo cable claim derailed

Source: C21Media

richm wrote a new blog post: Aereo cable claim derailed US internet TV start-up Aereo's latest attempt to restart its service has been dealt a blow after copyright officials said they would refuse to treat the firm as a cable company. Aereo has been forced to put its service on pause since June after the US Supreme Court ruled its method of using ‘personal antennas’ to [...] ...
Source: C21Media   Full article at: C21Media Jul 18 2014, 4:15am CDT
 

Update: 5

Aereo gets discouraging response from Copyright Office

Source: USATODAY

U.S. Copyright Office delivers discouraging letter to Aereo         ...
Source: USATODAY   Full article at: USATODAY Jul 17 2014, 5:33pm CDT
 

Update: 4

No, Aereo isn’t a cable company, says the Copyright Office

Source: The Washington Post

Aereo's latest plan to keep on living was already on iffy ground before the Copyright Office weighed in. Now, Aereo's prospects look grimmer than ever. In case you're just catching up, Aereo had bowed to the Supreme Court's ruling against it and tried to argue that it should be treated like a cable company under copyright law. That argument would've kept Aereo on safe legal ground while still allowing it to avoid paying hefty con ...
Source: The Washington Post   Full article at: The Washington Post Jul 17 2014, 4:01pm CDT
 

Update: 3

Dish's Hopper DVR Is No Aereo

Source: E-Commerce Times

Dish Network this week chalked up another legal victory for its Hopper DVR service. An appeals court rejected Fox's bid to disallow some features in the Hopper platform, namely the place-shifting capabilities of Dish Anywhere and Hopper Transfers. Dish Anywhere gives Hopper customers the option to view content remotely from Internet-connected devices like tablets, smartphones and computers. Hopper Transfers lets iPad users move or copy some Hopper recordin ...
Source: E-Commerce Times   Full article at: E-Commerce Times Jul 17 2014, 2:32pm CDT
 

Update: 2

DeadlineNow Morning Report: Aereo & The Copyright Office, ‘Big Bang Theory’ Limbo, SAG-AFTRA’s Top 10 (Video)

Source: Deadline

Click here to view the embedded video. Related: Copyright Office Rejects Aereo’s Request To Be Classified As A Cable Company ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Production Start In Limbo As Cast Contract Negotiations Drag On SAG-AFTRA Posts 10 Reasons To Vot ...
Source: Deadline  Full article at: Deadline Jul 17 2014, 1:45pm CDT
 

Update: 1

The US government thinks Aereo is and isn't a cable company

Source: Engadget

By now you're likely aware that the US Supreme Court decided Aereo's service was a violation of copyright law, labeling it a cable system. The outfit then sought to carry on the same statutory license cable compa ...
Source: Engadget   Full article at: Engadget Jul 17 2014, 12:30pm CDT
 

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