You may recall that Aereo lets users stream and record live over-the-air TV to their connected devices such as computers or iPads by providing each customer exclusive rental of a dime-sized antenna and online “cloud” storage. This unwieldy method was designed to comply with very narrow legal restrictions so that Aereo can stream broadcast content to its subscribers without paying the networks for the privilege. The Aereo setup mimics “rabbit ears” or a roof antenna together with a virtual digital video recorder (DVR), both of which have been ruled a legal way to bring broadcast TV programs to a viewer’s home. It is now up to the Supreme Court to decide whether this model still is legal when it’s used to deliver television over the internet.
C|NET provides a fascinating look at how it all works.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments based on a sentence in the Copyright Act of 1976 in which Congress granted copyright holders the exclusive right to “perform the copyrighted work publicly.” That phrase is further defined to mean, among other things, “to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work … to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public who are able to receive the performance or display are receiving it in the same place or in separate places, and at the same time or at different times.” This is known as the “transmit clause.”