Streaming video service Aereo’s last-ditch bid to stay in business hit another wall this week, as the U.S. Copyright Office has denied their request to be licensed in the same way as a cable company — at least, for the time being.
The Supreme Court ruled against Aereo in June, saying that the company had in fact been violating copyright by acting as a cable-like service but without going through the required licensing and regulatory process. Aereo responded a week ago by essentially saying fine, you win, we’ll be a cable company and applying for the licenses that would allow them to retransmit content.
In a letter (PDF) sent this week to Aereo, the Copyright Office says that in their view, “internet retransmissions of broadcast television” still fall outside the scope of their ability to license under section 111.
Section 111 is the piece of law that grants cable companies access to a compulsory license. That license allows a company to pay a license fee to the Copyright Office, and that fee grants the company access to rebroadcast a channel as a whole.
The Wall Street Journal reports that such license fees are generally considered to be inexpensive. The alternative to being granted a section 111 license is individually paying royalties for every piece of copyrighted material one retransmits, which is not inexpensive.
However, the letter does not completely send Aereo home empty-handed. The letter explains that the Copyright Office may “accept Aereo’s filings without comment; accept them provisionally … or refuse the filings as not eligible.”
Because cases involving Aereo are still kicking their way through lower courts, and because the FCC is also trying to decide what legal category internet video providers should fall under, the Copyright Office has picked the pause button option of provisional acceptance instead of outright turning Aereo away.
“The office will not refuse Aereo’s filings but will instead accept them on a provisional basis,” the letter reads. “Aereo should be aware that, depending upon further regulatory or judicial developments,” the Copyright Office can either accept or reject Aereo’s filing later on.
That “later on” has a lot of heavy lifting to do, though. The courts and the FCC do not move quickly, so Aereo probably still has a lot of waiting (buffering… buffering… buffering…) to do.