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back to article TV scraper Aereo pulled off air in six US states after tellyco court injunction victory

TV retransmitter Aereo, which created its business hoping to weasel around a loophole in the law, has been banned in six US states after a judge granted a preliminary injunction that bans it from operating in them. Aereo provided each subscriber with access to a tiny antenna in the cloud, deploying thousands of these antennas to …

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Paris Hilton

Help! My radio signal is being stolen!!

Citation by Broadcaster: "This injunction will prohibit Aereo from stealing our broadcast signal in Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana."

Well, I hope they get it back.

Seriously though, isn't Aereo just providing a service to their punters like renting out an antenna?

Wil those punters now have to pay the broadcasters?

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Unhappy

Re: Help! My radio signal is being stolen!!

Just wait until SETI get the call from the lawyers representing "all content creators in the rest of the known universe"... wouldn't want to have to foot that legal bill ^^;

(note: SETI retransmit the signals they intercept to millions of pirates volunteer's computers which then perform illegal signal processing on the received data; these volunteers certainly fall under the ambit of "general public" rather than a close circle of friends, so I think SETI might be a bit screwed here for not properly licensing that content...)

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Re: Help! My radio signal is being stolen!!

Uh, oh! The random downvoter strokes again but doesn't stop to give an answer.

Okay, then

Profile: Aereo’s Chet Kanojia Is Bringing Live TV to the Cloud

Aereo’s approach is simple: Pick up free television signals over the airwaves and send them to a cloud-based DVR that can store video and stream it to computers, phones, and tablets—for a fee. The signals are picked up by tiny, tunable copper antennas—each about the size of a postage stamp—which are slotted by the thousands into modular racks. Customers can rent one of those antennas for US $8 a month.

So who is getting shafted?

Because each customer rents his or her own antenna, the company argues, the process does not conflict with laws that regulate rebroadcasting (and which ensure that broadcast networks get hefty fees from cable companies for the right to transmit network programs to cable subscribers).

So it's about bypassing cable companies.

Is Kanojia afraid he’ll be branded as the man who killed the Disney Channel, or other cable- and satellite-only channels? Perhaps not Disney, he says, but “the man who killed the bundle? Sure, I hope.

If that is stealing, I want more of it.

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For those who don't understand how this works in the US

Originally broadcasters were happy to let cable companies receive and retransmit their signal for free. It meant more viewers, and more advertising revenue.

However, more recently broadcasters have realized they have some content many customers can't live without (in particular, professional and college football) so they started charging cable/satellite companies for retransmission. This is legal by FCC rules - in return for charging, they give up the "must carry" (i.e. if it is free, cable companies must carry certain local stations, but if they must pay, they are freed from that requirement)

Initially the fees were low, but they keep raising them higher and higher to see what the market will bear. Sometimes certain cable/satellite providers will lose access to certain locals for a while during a fee dispute, and such disputes are becoming more common.

Since the cable/satellite providers have to pay, the stations want Aereo to pay as well. Aereo claims they don't have to since each person has a "dedicated" antenna. The networks have vowed to pull their content (certainly at least the high value sports) from public airwaves if Aereo is allowed to continue.

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Pint

Re: Help! My radio signal is being stolen!!

"...renting out an antenna?"

I suspect that their racked and stacked paperclip size "antennas", typically installed in a data center, are completely fake.

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Boffin

Re: For those who don't understand how this works in the US

And for those who want to understand how it really works in the US...

Back when the VCR was still fairly new and you got local analog channels over the air or via the local cable company, the law the National Association of Broadcasters originally tried to get passed was nicknamed "must-carry, must pay".

They wanted cable companies to be forced to carry whatever stations were on the air in that area, whether the customers were interested in them or not, and they wanted the cable companies to be forced to pay the stations for the privilege, which of course meant passing the costs to the cable customers.

The broadcasters, who get a monopoly on a certain frequency in a certain area, have no way to individually charge those who pick up those broadcasts traversing the publicly owned airwaves at and in their own homes on their own equipment, and I suspect they cry themselves to sleep every night because they haven't found a way around that yet.

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Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

They are getting more viewers of their content, unmodified and with the original adverts. It is costing them nothing extra to provide the feed to Aereo. Using this logic are they going to try to charge the manufacturers of DVRs for providing the same service?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

The TV companies see Aereo taking what they produce and getting paid for it and the TV company isn't seeing any of the cash.

(And the TV company is probably only getting money from the advertisers on the basis of the number of viewers in their broadcast area. )

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Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

If Aereo can get away with it, then the cable companies are going to wonder why they are paying to deliver content to their customers.

With the content providers, and cable companies all being bought up buy a few big multinationals the charges that were supposed to be used to create local content (ha ha, good one) are now used to kick each other (see TW vs CBS crap) and stomp on smaller companies or upstarts.

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Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

Honest question, isn't that what they do to cable companies or are cable companies allowed to swap out the broadcaster's original commercials for their own? I've never had both cable and over the air broadcasts at the same time and so can't compare.

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Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

At least part of the issue is that broadcasters charge advertisers based on the number of eyeballs (supposedly) viewing their advertisements. This is why auditors like Nielsen, etc., have historically been so important to the industry -- they provide the numbers that everybody uses to drive the ad rates up or down.

Unless the broadcasters have a way of surveying (or should that be surveilling...?) the Aereo customers, to see how many thousands of sets of eyeballs they can add onto the numbers that they already get from Vielsen, et. al., for any given point in time, they can't get that hoped-for extra money from the advertisers.

OTOH, I'll wager that the advertisers like Aereo for that exact reason -- extra eyeballs for no extra outlay.

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WTF?

@ Mike Moyle: Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

The broadcasters don't have a way to survey the number of eyeballs viewing over-the-air transmissions either, so should that be the broadcasters bitch (no, I am not your bitch!), then it is totally bogus (no surprise there, I wot!). Nielsen simply needs to hook up with Aereo, and send journals to a randomly selected few of their "subscribers" (like they do with "regular" over-the-air viewers). 'Course, that would either cost Nielsen or the broadcasters money, and well...we couldn't have that, now, could we?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

"They are getting more viewers of their content, unmodified and with the original adverts. It is costing them nothing extra to provide the feed to Aereo"

Remember the 10th rule of acquisition: "Greed is eternal"

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Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

"OTOH, I'll wager that the advertisers like Aereo for that exact reason -- extra eyeballs for no extra outlay."

This issue had me stumped for a while, I couldn't think of a single reason why wider coverage was a bad thing.

But this makes sense. It's not so much the networks and advertisers are getting wider coverage, it's the networks could be getting more money out of advertisers, but have no way of measuring the actual increased numbers.

So what the networks doing in effect, is actively removing one advantage an advertiser has with that network (wider unmearsurable coverage). This can only possibly mean it'll end badly for the networks.

Then again, they are renouned arseholes. Kerry Packer (used to run the Nine Network here in australia) said it well: (though I'm paraphrasing) "All television is crap, it's only important you get people to watch it and the ads".

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Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

"And the TV company is probably only getting money from the advertisers on the basis of the number of viewers in their broadcast area." Which is unchanged. With Aereo, you could only sign up if you lived in the area of the broadcast signal -- hence, no change in model.

This was actually a shame, as I would have been happy to (at least consider) paying for a "I don't live in Denver but I want their TV" subscription. The segmentation of broadcast rights for sports would have probably blocked this idea anyway...

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Re: Can't say that I understand the TV companies argument

With the switch to hi-def tv in the US, all recording technology is effectively outlawed except as licensed by the broadcasters. You rent your DVR from the channel provider, who in turn pays the broadcast companies.

I don't like it, but it is.

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Re: are cable companies allowed to swap out the broadcaster's original commercials

A more complicated question than you might think grasshopper. It depends on how the cable company has structured their agreements with the broadcasters.

Historically the networks did their big satellite broadcasts with a set of commercials hard coded and bits where the local affiliate would plug in their local ads. If you are a small cable company (not sure they actually exist anymore) and you are picking up the local affiliate I think you'd have to broadcast the ads as they appear over the air. But if you are a big cable company and you've contracted directly with the main network the same way the affiliate would, I think you get to put your own ads into the same blank spots the affiliates get. Mix in the cable only content with ads and now you're headed really deep into the rabbit hole.

Of course this is the 20 year old model, and I'm not sure what changes they may have made in the intervening time.

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Anonymous Coward

Still Working in Denver

It's still working here as of 10:215MST.

It's my understanding that most of the injunction is being delayed until the Supreme Court case is heard.

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Crucial difference

If you are caught stealing someone else's pint in a pub, and they object, just tell them that you are pioneering 'Permissionless Drinking' - and they must back off.

Just like a pint of beer, a TV company no longer have a programme after somebody has watched it. Oh, wait, no, that's wrong. The TV company do still have the programme, no matter how many people have watched it.

Also, insects have antennae; televisions have antennas. Once a loan-word has acquired a new meaning, it follows modern English pluralisation rules in its new sense.

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Re: Crucial difference

"Also, insects have antennae; televisions have antennas. Once a loan-word has acquired a new meaning, it follows modern English pluralisation rules in its new sense."

Last I checked, it should be all or nothing. Multi-mast WiFI setups still use "ae" IIRC. Put it this way: either insects have antennas or wireless systems have antennae: no vacillating.

It's like with the "mouse" and "house" question. Why don't we say "mouses" or "hice"?

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Pirate

Watch my pint for me?

If you are in an unfamiliar pub with a couple of mates and it is crowded, you can ask someone to keep an eye on it for you without losing anything, can't you.

Also if your mates are watching the stripper or musician or whatever, they could keep an eye on it by watching a reflection of it in the twinkle of the performer's eye's couldn't they?

Well, maybe not really but that's still the picture. It's all very technical. Coupled with the the US's 10 commandments:

"...abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble ..." and all the rest of it as the lawyers can apply it...

...and they generally can...

...it all sounds capable of running quite far down hill.

Should be fun.

And we can get a Parish Hilton out of it mayhap?

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Re: Crucial difference

> If you are caught stealing someone else's pint in a pub

Jesus, I really wish journos like Andrew would stop using that word.

Really there's no excuse, they get enough flack on this forum.

Any credibility they have is shot to pieces when they try to equate copyright violation with theft.

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Re: Crucial difference

> Why don't we say "mouses" or "hice"?

you can if you want. I just tried it.

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Pint

Re: Crucial difference

"Also, insects have antennae; televisions have antennas."

And Aereo (I believe) has non-functional, fake little "antennas" that fulfill a pure legal-decoration function.

If wee little paperclip antennas installed in racks in the basement data centers actually worked, then why does everyone else spend so much time up on the roof struggling to get an OTA HD signal? Why doesn't Aereo drop this service model and start selling these amazing "antennas" to the public? Perhaps the same technology can be applied to directly detect signals from deep space missions using nothing more than a slightly larger paperclip?

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Re: Crucial difference

Once a loan-word has acquired a new meaning, it follows modern English pluralisation rules in its new sense.

Sigh. Another spear-carrier for the prescriptivist mythology.

The plural form is whatever the writer wants to use. The audience may or may not find it felicitous, or indeed comprehensible; but no authority exists to declare it correct or incorrect.

Or, in short: you are not the boss of English.

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Re: Crucial difference

"If wee little paperclip antennas installed in racks in the basement data centers actually worked, then why does everyone else spend so much time up on the roof struggling to get an OTA HD signal? Why doesn't Aereo drop this service model and start selling these amazing "antennas" to the public? Perhaps the same technology can be applied to directly detect signals from deep space missions using nothing more than a slightly larger paperclip?"

Because location is part of the reason Aereo works. Aereo carefully picks their facilities to optimize the reception, much like transmitters use tall masts and prefer the tops of hills and the like: the clearer your line of sight, the better. Put it this way: no matter how good your setup, trying to get good reception in a valley (or a concrete canyon) is pretty much going to be hit or miss: bad line of sight compounded with reflection echoes.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Re: Crucial difference

Yes, there is some doubt whether the antennae are actually attached to anything.

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Sorry...

We here in the USA don't license (sorry, American spelling) our TV receivers. We have nice sky hooks (antennas/ae) that capture signals and through a miracle of electronics display said content on (in my case) a picture tube.

The Aereo people just have a longer cord from the receiver to the display. That is all they are doing.

No "broadcast" here, just a receiver and a long wire to the display. What could be simpler. Sure it gets around the provisions of licensing programs, but that is why we here in the USA have adverts on the telly.

Pretty soon if this goes on, having a TV receiver connected to a computer monitor might not be legal without infusing $$$ into someones pocket. Of course having my satellite receiver modulated on channel 34 on my private cable so I can use multiple receivers might not be too legal either, but I don't worry.

P.S. I don't steal beer either.

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Re: Sorry...

The Aereo people just have a longer cord from the receiver to the display. That is all they are doing.

I've not looked into their service (and have no dog in this fight), but from the article, my impression is they have a longer cord from a DVR to the display. They are receiving content, recording it, and then playing the recordings back to the subscriber's equipment.

It appears that Kimball's decision hinges on the second step in their cunning plan.

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I'm not sure I get this..

So Aereo's argument is that one subscriber watching isn't a "public performance"? Is this based on only the subscriber and not the number of people watching the one TV? TV Ratings used to be based (maybe they still are) on how many viewers there were. IOW, how many were looking at one TV set and not the number of devices.

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Anonymous Coward

So at what point does it become illegal? First you have an antenna on your roof. You paid for it. The person who sold the antenna - which facilitates your watching copyrighted content - profits from said content. Per mr. Orlowski, the antenna salesman should pay royalties... But obviously that isn't the case.

Now say you rent the antenna. Well, if you rent the house, you are - so clearly renting an antenna is ok.

Now suppose you pay your neighbor to put your rented antenna on his house because he gets better reception. Is your neighbor infring? If you rented his whole house instead it wouldn't be infringing, obviously, but clearly your rental of the property has no effect on the end result for the content producers. So I would assume it's ok for your neighbor to let people put antennas on his house.

Now suppose your neighbor is 10 miles away. You need a really long cable but otherwise it's the same. Is the long cable somehow causingtthe neighbor to cost the producers money where a short one didn't? That doesn't make much sense.

So now suppose using a cable isn't practical, so the neighbor takes your signal and sends it via the internet instead. Is this change materially different? Does the retransmission of compressed ATSC digital data via TCP/IP damage the content producers when transmitting the same digital data via a cable with different termination is fine? That also makes no sense.

And if the neighbor has ten people with their antennas on his house sending them signals - how can that affect the content providers either? The end users don't know or care that the other users exist. The fact that there's more than one is incidental.

In the end, these guys are the neighbor in the last scenario. They're essentially providing nothing more than a very good antenna to each of their customers. How in the hell does this infringe copyright? How good does an antenna have to be before it starts to cost content providers money?

If you want to argue - as Mr. Orlowski clearly does - that providing a better antenna is 'profiting from copyrighted work', then why not accuse the people who make better decoder chips and the people who make HDMI cables, who all profit just as directly by enabling transmission of the same content?

Answer that question and I'll listen. But just yelling vaguely and angrily about fairness isn't going to convince me.

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Just to add to your scenarios, people living out in the sticks may very well already have a TV aerial way up in the hills with a booster and a long cable down to the house. That aerial may well be on someone elses land.

I know of at least one small community with no terrestrial broadcast coverage in their valley who clubbed together to build their own repeater station on top of a hill.

I genuinely can't understand the logic of disallowing re-broadcast of free-to-air un-altered broadcasts to people who either can't get a signal or who get a poor signal but who are at least nominally in the broadcast footprint.

Oh, and for Andrew O. Seriously? Stealing someone pint? "Would you steal a car?" Come on!

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Anonymous Coward

Plus, why should it matter whether you're nominally in the broadcast area? That would suggest that the broadcast power, terrain type, and the efficiency of your antenna are somehow inextricably linked to the profit potential of the IP. This is absurd, and suggests not that Aereo is infringing, but that the broadcasters are, if anything, relying on the limitations of obsolete technology to protect their business, and are fighting a version of the battle that oil painters did against photographers in the late 1800s.

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Re: So at what point does it become illegal?

It becomes illegal at the point where your company is making money from rebroadcasting someone else's copyrighted materials. Oh, and the DVRs are a real telling point that that's exactly what the upstart is doing: rebroadcasting.

The antenna vendor isn't rebroadcasting.

The neighbor house isn't rebroadcasting.

Once you get much past 100 meters you are into rebroadcasting territory, although some might try to weasel their way out of it by claiming they are only "signal boosting". (Basic physics, not a legal issue.)

Cable companies evolved the way they did because they were trying to do precisely what you describe: a bunch on neighbors with crappy reception put together better reception for over the air and rebroadcast it to their homes. Same rules should apply to the new guys even if it uses slightly different tech. This is Fairness 001, not even Fairness 101.

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The reading-comprehension scores are low on the Reg today.

Aereo is recording and time-shifting content, according to the article; and it is making that time-shifted content available to people who cannot, under any reasonable legal definition, be considered its "private" associates. That is rebroadcasting.

It may be difficult to draw a hard technical line for what constitutes rebroadcasting. Certainly reception with a passive antenna - converting an unguided signal to a guided one - in itself is not. It'd be hard to argue that simple signal boosting is either. Packaging that signal and transmitting it over an entirely different medium, as in your Internet example? That's rather obviously rebroadcasting, since it involves manipulating the signal (IP encapsulation).

Between those two points there is something of a gray area, but that's why we have courts. You have a private antenna on your neighbor's roof? Not rebroadcasting: it's just signal-boosting and it's for private use. Ten people have private antennas on the neighbor's roof? That's starting to look commercial: it's one thing for your neighbor to argue in court that you and he have a private arrangement, and another thing to argue that he's reached these private arrangements with several people without implicitly constituting a business.

Induction is not a legal defense. An activity may be legal between two people but illegal when conducted by many.

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Joke

"An activity may be legal between two people but illegal when conducted by many."

Damn Victorian morals again, eh?

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So what about the SlingBox or other remote-viewing item that allows you to take what you've purchased and rebroadcast it to another device while outside (or even inside, I suppose) your residence? And what if you don't have a cable connection and rely on an antenna to pick up local broadcasting (and therefore free after equipment costs)? If I SlingBox my local network affiliate across the nation while I'm traveling, does that mean I'm rebroadcasting? We've already established here in the US it is perfectly legal to record broadcast television and watch it later or over and over for private use.

The problem you and others are demonstrating is a belief that there is some kind of iron-clad law or settled case law that defines all these vague and possibly conflicting definitions when the reality that there are none. The Act cited in the case was designed in the 1970s when cable television companies were a new thing. I'm sure if one wanted to go back and look, you would see the fingerprints of NBC, ABC, and CBS all over as they worked to protect their place in the broadcast world.

When ABC tried to take Aereo to court using the same tactic, the Second Circuit Court found that the copy made by the user using Aereo's hardware was not a public performance as the copy was limited to the user and the user's account; therefore it does not violate the Transmit Clause of the 1976 copyright act. This was after the court agreed that the legislative act in 1976 was specifically created to prevent cable companies from capturing a single over-the-air feed and rebroadcasting it to subscribers' homes. Perhaps also delving a bit too far into the technical minutia, the court also noted that if a Aereo subscriber picked a show and clicked Watch, there was a 5-10 second delay between the actual OTA feed and what the user was watching, which meant it was a copy (as it was technically being saved to a storage device) for private use, a key distinction when looking at the Fair Use ruling.

So it's not a failing of reading comprehension, it's the reality that there are numerous interpretations of the laws, case law, and technical specifications of how the service works. As I and probably most other people here (including the author) are not lawyers, our piecemeal interpretations of barely read acts and rulings is as useful as pissing in the wind.

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Anonymous Coward

I think the big different is that the Slingbox is on YOUR property using YOUR subscribed (or OTA) reception. Under these circumstances it could legally be considered spaceshifting. IOW, the origin point matters here.

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Wouldn't this be making more money for the broadcasters?

They weren't directly making money off the signal anyway, but indirectly from increased sales of products advertised via those signals. At least with this model, they could request viewership statistics from Aereo and rather than try to sell air-time based on 'Company X bought time from us and their profits went up by X amount, where they could now say 'We have at least X number of viewers on these time slots'

It bothers me to see companies like this getting shut down as it could be a boon for all parties involved. At the very least I could see a deal going with Public TV channels as it would a charitable donation and these channels would have a much wider audience.

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Re: Wouldn't this be making more money for the broadcasters?

The thing is that now the broadcaster, cable company, content producer, and advertizer are all the same company (and trying for a triple play of your phone/TV/internet). Aereo is some outsider upstart interfering with their business model so they will be stomped.

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Re: Re: Wouldn't this be making more money for the broadcasters?

"The thing is that now the broadcaster, cable company, content producer, and advertizer are all the same company"

The funny farm is on the left.

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Re: Wouldn't this be making more money for the broadcasters?

Oh? Comcast owns NBC, one of the big broadcast networks, AND is an ISP. I'd call that vertical integration.

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Permissionless assault

I once got hit twice in quick succession for permissionless drinking, which would have been fair enough, had it actually been my arm that snaked through the crowded bar and took the Peoples Pint in the first place.

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Comparative case scenario

I'm not how it works in the UK, but in the U.S. in some areas it's not uncommon to contract for (lease) rights of way, space (land), and utilities (water, power, etc) to support a business or private need such as, say, antenna placement for transmission and reception of signals in remote locations when the location of viewing either lacks the ability to support this capability, or provides poor signal performance.

Obviously, the lessor is free to charge whatever rate of the lessee for these resources they can agree to contractually, which may include some amount of reasonable profit.

How does Aereo's service differ from this scenario? The customer essentially buys the antenna, and Aereo "leases" facilities to support the customers reception needs.

Unless Aereo were somehow modifying the content - injecting adverts, or inserting local programming like the local cable companies frequently do - it appears to me that they essentially operate almost like a pureplay ISP that provides a connection and equipment for a monthly fee, but the customer dictates the nature and volume of content that is accessed.

No one is stealing anything - all of the broadcasters' adverts are still there in the content stream and the programming content is unaltered.

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Re: Comparative case scenario

You know damn well how it is different or you wouldn't have put the quotes around 'leases'.

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It's not often I disagree with EFF, but....

It costs the telcos money in licensing fees to be able to transmit over the airwaves. They recoup this cost through advertising seen by people who pick up those signals and watch them. So far what Aero is doing sounds good for them because it means more people see the ads. And it probably is, so realistically I think it's pretty dumb of them to complain.

Here's the legal sticking point though (since when do law and reality reside in the same realm?). IT COSTS THEM MONEY in licensing fees to be able to transmit. Aero is essentially letting the telcos foot the biggest chunk of the operating costs in order to provide their service by not having to pay any licensing fees (or have satellites to get feeds, or even a fraction of the broadcasting power, or dealing with advertisers, ect.). It's rather like splitting the lunch ticket evenly between someone who had a side salad and someone who had a 12oz ribeye.

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Boffin

Re: It's not often I disagree with EFF, but....

Reading comprehension alert:

Telcos don't broadcast over-the-air television. I'm sure it would surprise ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, WGN, WTBS, et al, that they are now telephone companies.

(Although pretty much anything would surprise FOX...)

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Andrew shows his bias pretty heavily in this piece. Seems in his world view all media companies deserve unlimited revenue and the government should force people to give it to them. The fact that the radio signals are free for the taking and Aero rents you an antenna to capture them is irrelevant. Here in the colonies (as elsewhere in the free world and not so free world) the government says the airwaves belong to the people and broadcast companies have to get a license from the government to use the airwaves. Some people get signals blocked by buildings or geographic features. Why shouldn't they be able to pay someone like Aero to help them get the same signal everyone else gets?

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Beer analogy

The Beer analogy would only be fair if in drinking the beer, I left you with more beer in your glass than when I started.

Advertisers pay by the eyeball

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