Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: David Sprott, Elizabeth White, Anders Wallgren, Martin Etmajer, Liz McMillan

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?

SCOTUS

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
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
Eighty percent of a data scientist’s time is spent gathering and cleaning up data, and 80% of all data is unstructured and almost never analyzed. Cognitive computing, in combination with Big Data, is changing the equation by creating data reservoirs and using natural language processing to enable analysis of unstructured data sources. This is impacting every aspect of the analytics profession from how data is mined (and by whom) to how it is delivered. This is not some futuristic vision: it's ha...
Silver Spring Networks, Inc. (NYSE: SSNI) extended its Internet of Things technology platform with performance enhancements to Gen5 – its fifth generation critical infrastructure networking platform. Already delivering nearly 23 million devices on five continents as one of the leading networking providers in the market, Silver Spring announced it is doubling the maximum speed of its Gen5 network to up to 2.4 Mbps, increasing computational performance by 10x, supporting simultaneous mesh communic...
The cloud promises new levels of agility and cost-savings for Big Data, data warehousing and analytics. But it’s challenging to understand all the options – from IaaS and PaaS to newer services like HaaS (Hadoop as a Service) and BDaaS (Big Data as a Service). In her session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Hannah Smalltree, a director at Cazena, will provide an educational overview of emerging “as-a-service” options for Big Data in the cloud. This is critical background for IT and data profes...
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
One of the bewildering things about DevOps is integrating the massive toolchain including the dozens of new tools that seem to crop up every year. Part of DevOps is Continuous Delivery and having a complex toolchain can add additional integration and setup to your developer environment. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Miko Matsumura, Chief Marketing Officer of Gradle Inc., will discuss which tools to use in a developer stack, how to provision the toolchain to minimize onboa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute, owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Interoute is the owner-operator of one of Europe's largest networks and a global cloud services platform which encompasses 12 data centers, 14 virtual data centers and 31 colocation centers, with connections to 195 ad...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
The Quantified Economy represents the total global addressable market (TAM) for IoT that, according to a recent IDC report, will grow to an unprecedented $1.3 trillion by 2019. With this the third wave of the Internet-global proliferation of connected devices, appliances and sensors is poised to take off in 2016. In his session at @ThingsExpo, David McLauchlan, CEO and co-founder of Buddy Platform, will discuss how the ability to access and analyze the massive volume of streaming data from mil...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, will discuss the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filte...
WebSocket is effectively a persistent and fat pipe that is compatible with a standard web infrastructure; a "TCP for the Web." If you think of WebSocket in this light, there are other more hugely interesting applications of WebSocket than just simply sending data to a browser. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Frank Greco, Director of Technology for Kaazing Corporation, will compare other modern web connectivity methods such as HTTP/2, HTTP Streaming, Server-Sent Events and new W3C event APIs ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of enterprise storage for the hybrid cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Avere delivers a more modern architectural approach to storage that doesn’t require the overprovisioning of storage capacity to achieve performance, overspending on expensive storage media for inactive data or the overbuilding of data centers ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies adopt disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevO...
Fortunately, meaningful and tangible business cases for IoT are plentiful in a broad array of industries and vertical markets. These range from simple warranty cost reduction for capital intensive assets, to minimizing downtime for vital business tools, to creating feedback loops improving product design, to improving and enhancing enterprise customer experiences. All of these business cases, which will be briefly explored in this session, hinge on cost effectively extracting relevant data from ...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
As enterprises work to take advantage of Big Data technologies, they frequently become distracted by product-level decisions. In most new Big Data builds this approach is completely counter-productive: it presupposes tools that may not be a fit for development teams, forces IT to take on the burden of evaluating and maintaining unfamiliar technology, and represents a major up-front expense. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Warfield, CTO and Co-Founder of Coho Data, will dis...
SYS-CON Events announced today that iDevices®, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. iDevices, the preeminent brand in the connected home industry, has a growing line of HomeKit-enabled products available at the largest retailers worldwide. Through the “Designed with iDevices” co-development program and its custom-built IoT Cloud Infrastruc...