Clouds on the Horizon: The Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Aereo
Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., et al., v. Aereo, Inc., No. 12-451, a copyright action whose outcome could dramatically shape the future of television and cloud computing. Aereo is an internet start-up that uses arrays of dime-sized, customer-specific antennas to stream and store on-demand, over-the-air television, likening its technology as an alternative to an individual using, for example, an antenna and DVR to legally capture and record over-the-air content for private viewing. Fearing the loss of their intellectual property rights and lucrative retransmission fees, a consortium of broadcasters promptly sued Aereo for copyright infringement in March 2012 in the Southern District of New York. The broadcasters sought a preliminary injunction against Aereo, arguing that Aereo’s service amounted to thinly veiled public performances, and therefore, constituted copyright infringement. The SDNY, and subsequently the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, both ruled in favor of Aereo, citing the 2008 Second Circuit Cablevision case (Cartoon Network LP, LLLP v. CSC Holdings, Inc., 536 F.3d 121 (2nd Cir. N.Y. 2008)), which established the legality of using hosted DVRs to store and replay content to individual subscribers.