CCIA files amicus brief in Aereo case

Michelle Clancy | 29-10-2012

The Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) in conjunction with the Internet Association has filed an amicus brief on behalf of streaming online video operator Aereo, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit prepares to hear the case.

The court is preparing to hear an appeal by TV broadcasters, who are asking the court to shut down the video startup service Aereo. Aereo enables subscription users in the New York City metro area to watch broadcast TV from local TV affiliates online or via iPhone, iPad and Roku box. Aereo claims it is an over the air (OTA) receiver thanks to tiny antennae that it issues all subscribers; content companies say it is just another copyright infringer looking to capitalise on content without paying for it.

CCIA characterises the outcome of the case as "altering the future of cloud computing."

Aereo recently won a partial victory in the U.S. District Court in New York, where it argued that the function of its service was not materially different from the use of remote DVRs, which the New York appeals court blessed in the important and high-profile Cablevision case. Therefore, a finding against Aereo, it argued, will require the reversal of the Cablevision decision, with big ramifications for rules governing any content stored in the cloud.

In the amicus brief, CCIA agreed, and argues that the recent Cablevision case provided important legal clarity that has enabled Internet companies to invest in developing a wide variety of services, including cloud computing.

"That's why CCIA is asking the court to reject attempts to block new technologies by limiting or obscuring the holdings of Cablevision," it said.

"TV broadcasters are essentially complaining that Aereo is disrupting their existing business model," said CCIA President and CEO Ed Black. "However, in the past, the Supreme Court has recognised that it is best for Congress to decide whether or not it is desirable to expand protections of copyright owners to respond to changes in technology. We agree that Congress, rather than the court system, would have more flexibility to address TV broadcasters complaints without creating uncertainty for Internet innovators and investors."

He added, "In the meantime, the law empowers innovative companies to continue to offer TV viewing choices that customers clearly want."

The case is expected to be heard within weeks if not sooner.