Aereo Jumps Through the Right Retransmission Hoops
One theme that’s going to become more and more prevalent as TV via the internet overtakes broadcast television is how the old regulations—based on physical measures—stand up against new, digital implementations. As August ended last year, a New York appeals court struck down the TV streaming service ivi as a violation of the Copyright Act. Meanwhile, a court ruling last July decided that NY-based streaming service Aereo did not have to pay licensing fees to retransmit NYC signals to people living in the city.
Aereo’s success is thanks to a loophole in the physical reality. Specifically, Aereo subscription fees pay for the rental of two micro-antennas that are used to power the live TV streaming and DVR service provided to each subscriber. The other catch: a subscriber can only get local channels. The service is currently only in NYC, but will quickly be expanding to over 20 more cities.
ivi had no such safe guard. Instead, it streamed from four TV markets across the country. These kind of fine legal lines have plagued the industry since cable TV grew in popularity. This article by James Grimmelman is a great primer on all of the issues facing retransmission services—and the loopholes that companies like Aereo are careful to jump through to win lawsuits.
The biggest issue with the current system is that it’s based not on use, but rather on broadcasting specifics. As we detailed earlier, corporations and the FCC are eating away at broadcast infrastructure. Forcing developers and companies to wade through past precedent in order to jump through hoops inevitably produces technology without lasting solutions. However, as of today, the law has no other way of ruling on these developments.
Unfortunately, if there is a better solution out there that would allow broadcasters to move online, the current law keeps that disruption from coming to fruition.
By Zac Stockton, Product Manager