Aereo’s Plan To Stay In Business: Okay, Fine, We’re A Cable Company Now

aereoantennaeAereo lost their case in the Supreme Court last month, and had to suspend operations a few days later. In that case, the Court ruled that Aereo was actually operating just like a cable company, and so needed to license content like one. Aereo is now legally trying to do just that — but the broadcasters still object.

The Hollywood Reporter points to a letter Aereo has sent to a U.S. District Court judge to outline their new operating plan.

In the letter (PDF), Aereo acknowledges that the Supreme Court has called them a cable-like company. Whether or not they like it, the highest court in the land has said that’s what they are — so they’re going to operate just like one. And they’re going to go through the process of retransmission licensing that the cable companies all go through, too.

“If Aereo is a ‘cable system’ as that term is defined in the Copyright Act,” the lawyers write, “it is eligible for a statutory license, and its transmissions may not be enjoined.” The letter goes on to indicate that Aereo is currently in the process of applying for the appropriate section 111 license, and that it should not be prevented from doing so as getting that license is the only way the company can go back to operating and taking in revenue.

In other words: Aereo says, fine. If you call us a a cable company, then we are going to act like a cable company so that we can stay in business and go back to making money and providing service.

But the broadcasters who sued Aereo all the way to the Supreme Court in the first place don’t like this argument, either — even though it means they’d get paid for the content they broadcast.

“[I]t is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court’s decision automatically transformed Aereo into a ‘cable system’ under Section 111 given its prior statements to this Court and the Supreme Court,” the broadcasters argue. Since Aereo argued to the Court that it wasn’t a cable company, they’re claiming, it cannot possibly now claim that it is. Even though the Court actually said that it was.

Ars Technica points out that Aereo isn’t the first internet streaming-TV company to try this process. In 2010, a company called ivi TV tried the same argument and lost in court. Aereo claims that the Supreme Court ruling overturns the earlier ivi case.

However, Ars adds, there’s still another catch: even if Aereo does have grounds to call itself a legit retransmission company, there’s not yet any legal proof or reasoning that they have the right to do it specifically over the internet.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, it became clear that either the company or the law would need to change if Aereo were to have any chance to keep the lights on. Aereo appears to be trying to make the obvious legal change. It remains to be seen whether the lower court will let them.

Aereo Lays Out New Survival Strategy in Letter to Judge [Hollywood Reporter]
Aereo: Hey, we’re a cable company after all! [Ars Technica]

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