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Aereo Case Headed to Supreme Court; Cloud Computing in the Balance?

After two years of back-and-forth litigation between broadcasters and Aereo (a CCIA member), the Supreme Court agreed today to hear an appeal of the Second Circuit’s decision in favor of Aereo.  (S.Ct. Dkt. No. 13-461).  The court’s eventual decision as to the legality of Aereo’s streaming TV service will have significant ramifications in the cloud computing industry.

When broadcasters sought Supreme Court review late last year, Aereo took the unconventional position of agreeing to review for a case it had won, explaining that it wanted to fight on the merits, rather than wage a “wasteful war of attrition.”

Aereo’s technology, which is available in major cities including New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Houston, gives subscribers access to their locally available broadcast television signals via arrays of user-controlled remote antennas.  Broadcasters contend that this remote access violates their public performance rights under the Copyright Act.

We recently updated our popular infographic explaining the sprawling multi-district litigation between broadcasters, Aereo, and another service called FilmOn X.

As Aereo’s statement today made clear, modern cloud computing services rely upon legal principles established in a 2008 case known as “Cablevision”—principles which are threatened by the broadcasters’ litigation:

This case is critically important not only to Aereo, but to the entire cloud computing and cloud storage industry. The landmark Second Circuit decision in Cablevision provided much needed clarity for the cloud industry and as a result, helped foster massive investment, growth and innovation in the sector.

The earliest the case could be argued is late April, as the Supreme Court’s calendar for the 2013 term is rapidly filling up.

Other press coverage demonstrating the significance of this case can be found in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, GigaOM, and The Verge.

DisCo’s infographic on Aereo:

Intellectual Property

The Internet enables the free exchange of ideas and content that, in turn, promote creativity, commerce, and innovation. However, a balanced approach to copyright, trademarks, and patents is critical to this creative and entrepreneurial spirit the Internet has fostered. Consequently, it is our belief that the intellectual property system should encourage innovation, while not impeding new business models and open-source developments.