Click here to close now.


Containers Expo Blog Authors: Elizabeth White, Anders Wallgren, Greg O'Connor, Dana Gardner, Liz McMillan

Blog Feed Post

Aereo v. Broadcasters: Things to Ponder

According to, “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
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
We are rapidly moving to a brave new world of interconnected smart homes, cars, offices and factories known as the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors and monitoring devices will touch every part of our lives. Let's take a closer look at the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things is a worldwide network of objects and devices connected to the Internet. They are electronics, sensors, software and more. These objects connect to the Internet and can be controlled remotely via apps and programs. Because they can be accessed via the Internet, these devices create a tremendous opportunity to inte...
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...