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15Mar/12

How tiny antennae threaten to upset the balance of power

Damn the Lawsuits — It’s Full Speed Ahead for Aereo In New York

NEW YORK — Aereo, the startup which aims to rock the TV world by renting you a remote high definition antenna that allows you to watch and record broadcasts via a web browser, launched Wednesday despite lawsuits which allege that the company is violating the copyrights of broadcasters who own the programming.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Aereo (and it has filed a counterclaim of its own) but there is no court injunction preventing the launch, so here we go. In what is perhaps a little tweak at the broadcasters who are trying to shut Aereo down — or just good business of the “first taste is free” variety — Aereo takes to the airwaves with a 90-day free trial, up from the 30 days initially planned. After that 90 days, it’ll cost New Yorkers $12 a month to get the roughly 20 channels broadcasting in this market in HD.

That is, assuming Aereo is still around in 90 days.

The suits against the start-up, whose backers include broadcast veteran Barry Diller, allege that Aereo is blatantly violating the copyrights of broadcasters who air shows that are otherwise available generally only via cable and satellite middlemen, or if you have your own HD antenna attached to a TV set. Aereo contends it has the legal right to provide this service because its potential customers a) have the right to these broadcasts, made available as they are on publicly-owned airwaves and b) have the right to put an antenna anywhere they want to pull in these signals for our own, personal, non-commercial use.

Aereo essentially says it is merely enabling legal private behavior, and charging for that convenience.

Copyright is a justifiably powerful tool which often trumps all — and I am no lawyer — but I’ve already made clear that I find Aereo’s theory compelling. That said, I’m fantastically interested in how the arguments on both sides will be made. Either way this case will change things: Someone is going to do what Aereo is doing, even if it’s only the broadcasters who didn’t bother to, first.

Via http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2012/03/johncabell/

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About Jeff M. Fischbach

http://www.twitter.com/FischTech Jeff Michael Fischbach is founder and President of SecondWave Information Systems (SecondWave.com), a consulting firm specializing in Forensic Technology. Since 1994, he has served as a board member and technology adviser to numerous professional organizations and corporations. Mr. Fischbach has been engaged as a litigation consultant and Forensic Examiner, offering expert advice and oversight on matters involving intellectual property, computers, information systems, satellite, tracking and wireless communications technologies. He has advised law enforcement, foreign government representatives, judges, lawyers and the press.
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