The White House has come out on the side of the nation's major broadcasting networks in their unified opposition to the Internet-based startup Aereo Inc., which offers its users to access to television for a monthly fee
without paying the networks for the content.
In a 40-page amicus brief
released by the White House on Monday, the solicitor general’s office writing on behalf of the administration said, "Like its competitors, [Aereo] must obtain licenses to perform the copyrighted content on which its business relies."
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"[Aereo] does not simply provide access to equipment or other property that facilitates customers’ reception of broadcast signals. Rather, [Aereo] operates an integrated system ... whose functioning depends on its customers’ shared use of common facilities," the solicitor general’s office wrote. "The fact [is] that as part of that system [Aereo] uses unique copies and many individual transmissions does not alter the conclusion that it is retransmitting broadcast content 'to the public.'"
Although anyone with an antenna can pick up a TV station's signals for free, cable and satellite companies typically pay stations and networks for the right to distribute their programming to subscribers.
The New York City-based tech company, which does not pay broadcasters for use of programming, converts television signals into computer data and sends it over the Internet to subscribers' computers and mobile devices. Subscribers can watch channels live or record their favorite shows with an Internet-based digital video recorder similar to a DVR.
The startup, which is backed by billionaire Barry Diller's IAC/InterActiveCorp, argues that it doesn’t have to pay those fees because its service relies on its customers' own tiny antennas to catch the TV stream.
In 2012, NBC, ABC, and CBS field a lawsuit against Aereo arguing that the tech startup infringed on their copyright by rebroadcasting their shows. The U.S. District Court subsequently ruled that the claims by the major networks were invalid
, leading to an appeal by the broadcasters.
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In February, a federal judge in Utah barred Aereo from retransmitting programs in a handful of states
The case is scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in April.
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