Containers Expo Blog Authors: John Mertic, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Derek Weeks, TJ Randall

Blog Feed Post

Aereo v. Broadcasters: Things to Ponder

According to aereo.com, “With Aereo, you can watch real, live TV through a tiny remote antenna you control over the Internet — from home or anywhere in your home coverage area.”

If you’re a TV viewer with a broadband connection to the public Internet, this seems like an awesome idea. For $8 per month, you can “Record & Stream Live TV Online with Aereo Cloud DVR.”

If you’re a Broadcaster with a dual revenue stream (retransmission fees from a cable company or other MVPD plus advertising revenue) this seems like a world-ending technology designed to undermine a well-established business model by exploiting a legal loophole.

If you’re on the Supreme Court of The United States, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

The Debate

My good friend, Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association and Neal Katyla, the former acting solicitor general of the United States and legal adviser to the broadcasters in this case, spoke with Jeffrey Brown on PBS. It was a lively debate, well worth watching.

Mr. Katyla said, “As Justice Ginsburg pointed out in today’s argument, everyone else who wants to grab content has to pay for it. And the broadcast companies spend each year billions of dollars creating content, acquiring content, distributing the content. And if an interloper can come along like Aereo — and Aereo’s business model is essentially grabbing those signals from over the air, bundling them together and then selling them for a profit — well, then the entire model and the entire premise of copyright law is going to be disrupted.”

Mr. Katyla spent quality time describing Aereo as an “interloper” and insisted that Aereo’s technology violates copyright law. Interloper may be harsh, but Mr. Shapiro countered that, “… it’s not known whether or not Aereo broke the law… two courts have said they have not violated the law. And, in fact, the statute as written, which was, interestingly, barely discussed at the case, is pretty clear that they have not violated the law.”

Supporting Case Law

The Cablevision Case: In April 2013, a federal appeals court ruled that Aereo’s service didn’t violate copyright law based on a Second Circuit ruling “that found Cablevision’s remote DVR’s to be legal because they involved one copy of a show being transmitted to one subscriber.” While Aereo says its operation is “one antenna for one subscriber,” broadcasters argue that Aereo’s system is built specifically to get around copyright law and different from the Cablevision case because Aereo offers live TV without a license.

Sony Betamax: As opined by Mr. Shapiro, “… the Sony Betamax case, which said you have the right, as a consumer, to record over-the-air television. So there’s no one questioning that today, but a lot of people are relying on it, because that was a fundamental right.” He said Sony has a right to sell a VCR, and “Aereo has a right to basically sell access to an antenna. And, as Aereo’s attorney pointed out, there’s nothing different between what we’re doing with a centralized antenna that is located, as opposed to going in and installing them at people’s houses.”

Circuit Board

This circuit board is made up of a plurality of miniature antennas.

The Technology

This is where it really gets tricky. The circuit board pictured above shows a plurality of miniature television antennas. According to Aereo’s patent (and its attorney), each of these “antennas” are supposed to be assigned to an individual subscriber. The main argument, from Aereo’s point of view, is that you are renting a television antenna in a remote location and it is technically identical to finding the ideal place to put your regular-sized antenna, but… through the magic of Aereo technology (and it would have to be magic for reasons I shall explain in a moment), this little miniature antenna will tune in all of the broadcast television you would ever want to watch.

Then, also through the magic of Aereo technology, you can use a remote DVR (just like your DVR only in a remote location) and access recorded shows from any device that has access to the public Internet. Aereo argues that this is completely legal because its service is identical to making a deal with your neighbor to place your antenna on his roof (because he had better line of sight to the television transmitters) and paying $8 per month for the privilege.

The problem here is that a single miniature antenna like the ones shown on the circuit card can’t (due to very well understood physics) receive VHF and UHF television signals. It is possible that the entire circuit card may be able to resonate with the wavelengths in question, but not an individual miniature antenna. If you want to do an experiment, take one of these and attach it to your television set – you will most likely see snow on almost every channel. A paperclip-sized antenna would need to have Harry Potter-like powers to tune in the range radio frequencies used for broadcast television.

The Aereo patent claims have other significant issues with naming conventions and industry terms of art. I don’t know what an “antenna system” is. Aereo invented the term. But it clearly contains more technology than a passive television antenna sized to resonate at specific frequencies.

Then there’s the non-trivial issue of transcoding the signal from RF (Radio Frequency) to a streaming video format.

When taken together, the technology does not appear to be a passive television antenna in a remote location. It appears to be an array of antennas and a system for multiplexing transmission, which closely resembles an MVPD or, in other words, a cable operator.

Things to Ponder

Of the lessons learned from Sony Corp. Of Amer. V. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984) and MGM Studios, Inc. v. Grokster, Ltd., 545 U.S. 913 (2005) one important take-away was, “Technology is neither good nor bad it’s how people use it that makes it so.” To date, the courts have not ruled against technology or innovation. They have ruled against the way people put it to use.

Aereo is innovative and awesome! But is it legal?

This case is reminiscent of the advent of Super Stations. Back in 1976, Ted Turner realized that he could use C-Band Satellite technology to distribute the broadcast signal from WTCG-TV (renamed WTBS-TV in 1978) to cable providers nationwide. This was to the great dismay and chagrin of syndicators and content providers who licensed programming to WTCG/WTBS in Atlanta for use in the Atlanta television market. The contracts did not prohibit this kind of distribution because no one thought of it or had any idea that it would become an issue.

Lawsuits ensued, but… as we all know, WTBS-TV became TBS (Turner Broadcasting System) and the cable business, as we know it, was born.

Is the way Aereo is using Antenna/Internet technology radically different from the way TBS used C-Band Satellite technology? Both had the idea of increasing viewership of free over-the-air content by using available technology. While this example is imperfect for several reasons, the metaphor is a good one – innovators see opportunity where there is a market and brilliant innovators change constantly change the world.

Aereo is good for consumers. Some will argue that it is good for advertiser-supported broadcast television stations because it will increase viewership (local broadcast television ratings have been declining for a decade and the downward trend is accelerating). Make no mistake: Aereo is not good for broadcast television stations in any way. Not only because if Aereo prevails it will not have to pay retransmission fees, but because every cable company will copy the technology and cease to pay them as well. This will financially devastate the local broadcast television business. A win for Aereo is a death knell for local television stations.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? After all, the FCC wants the spectrum that it loans to local television stations (for free) back so it can sell it or lease it companies that want to use it for wireless broadband.

If free over the air television did not exist, would the content created by local TV stations be valuable enough for cable and satellite providers to carry? Would they pay for it? If the content were only available over a wired MVPD, Aereo would have nothing to sell. Is that future better for the public?


The implications of the Aereo decision will be far-reaching and it will impact every aspect of the broadcast television business. Is this technology good or bad? It’s not about the technology at all… it’s about people understanding how it is being used. And, as Upton Sinclair used to say, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Just some things to ponder about Aereo vs. television as we know it.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the host of Fox Television’s "Shelly Palmer Digital Living" television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5′s (WNYW-TV New York) Tech Expert and the host of United Stations Radio Network’s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
If you had a chance to enter on the ground level of the largest e-commerce market in the world – would you? China is the world’s most populated country with the second largest economy and the world’s fastest growing market. It is estimated that by 2018 the Chinese market will be reaching over $30 billion in gaming revenue alone. Admittedly for a foreign company, doing business in China can be challenging. Often changing laws, administrative regulations and the often inscrutable Chinese Interne...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
One of biggest questions about Big Data is “How do we harness all that information for business use quickly and effectively?” Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or spatial technology is about more than making maps, but adding critical context and meaning to data of all types, coming from all different channels – even sensors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, William (Bill) Meehan, director of utility solutions for Esri, will take a closer look at the current state of spatial technology and ar...
Cloud based infrastructure deployment is becoming more and more appealing to customers, from Fortune 500 companies to SMEs due to its pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise storage vendors are able to reach out to these customers by integrating in cloud based deployments; this needs adaptability and interoperability of the products confirming to cloud standards such as OpenStack, CloudStack, or Azure. As compared to off the shelf commodity storage, enterprise storages by its reliability, high-availabil...
The IoT industry is now at a crossroads, between the fast-paced innovation of technologies and the pending mass adoption by global enterprises. The complexity of combining rapidly evolving technologies and the need to establish practices for market acceleration pose a strong challenge to global enterprises as well as IoT vendors. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Clark Smith, senior product manager for Numerex, will discuss how Numerex, as an experienced, established IoT provider, has embraced a ...
In past @ThingsExpo presentations, Joseph di Paolantonio has explored how various Internet of Things (IoT) and data management and analytics (DMA) solution spaces will come together as sensor analytics ecosystems. This year, in his session at @ThingsExpo, Joseph di Paolantonio from DataArchon, will be adding the numerous Transportation areas, from autonomous vehicles to “Uber for containers.” While IoT data in any one area of Transportation will have a huge impact in that area, combining sensor...
In the next forty months – just over three years – businesses will undergo extraordinary changes. The exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will see a step function change in how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform their competition. In the next forty months companies will take the actions that will see them get to the next level of the game called Capitalism. Or they won’t – game over. The winners of today and tomorrow think differently, follow different...
“Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CloudBerry Backup is a leading cross-platform cloud backup and disaster recovery solution integrated with major public cloud services, such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
The Internet of Things (IoT), in all its myriad manifestations, has great potential. Much of that potential comes from the evolving data management and analytic (DMA) technologies and processes that allow us to gain insight from all of the IoT data that can be generated and gathered. This potential may never be met as those data sets are tied to specific industry verticals and single markets, with no clear way to use IoT data and sensor analytics to fulfill the hype being given the IoT today.
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
A completely new computing platform is on the horizon. They’re called Microservers by some, ARM Servers by others, and sometimes even ARM-based Servers. No matter what you call them, Microservers will have a huge impact on the data center and on server computing in general. Although few people are familiar with Microservers today, their impact will be felt very soon. This is a new category of computing platform that is available today and is predicted to have triple-digit growth rates for some ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftNet Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SoftNet Solutions specializes in Enterprise Solutions for Hadoop and Big Data. It offers customers the most open, robust, and value-conscious portfolio of solutions, services, and tools for the shortest route to success with Big Data. The unique differentiator is the ability to architect and ...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, will discuss why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue an...
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.