Q&A with Drew T. Palmer
High court’s technology decision could affect cloud computing
Q: Explain the issue in the American Broadcasting Cos. Inc. v. Aereo case.
A: Aereo is a technology startup that based its entire business model on exploiting U.S. copyright law to avoid having to pay the broadcast television companies for the right to retransmit television programming on the Internet. Under current law, the broadcast television companies are prohibited from charging for content that they broadcast over the air. In contrast, they can charge fees for retransmitting that same content over cable or the Internet. Indeed, this is the reason that anyone with an antenna can receive over-the-air television programming from the major TV stations without having to pay for that programming. Aereo developed new HD television antennas that could be manufactured and deployed relatively cheaply. It then rented those antennas to Aereo’s customers. The critical legal issue was that unlike other technology companies, Aereo ensured that each customer actually had their own private HD antenna that streamed broadcast television to the customer’s device. In this way, Aereo contended they weren’t retransmitting television programming, but instead were simply renting antennas, and therefore the broadcast television companies were prohibited from charging Aereo a fee. Very soon after Aereo launched its service, the broadcast television companies sued.
Q: What implications might this have on other recent technological developments such as cloud computing?
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