June 2014

Supreme Court Ends Aereo’s Technology-Driven Attempt to Disrupt the Traditional Network TV Model

[Cross-post from BostInno]

In the end Aereo’s dime-sized antennas and subscriber-specific copies of television broadcasts – its “Rube Goldberg” attempt to find a loophole that would allow it to stream TV over the Internet – were not enough to win over a majority of the Supreme Court.

On June 25, 2014, the Supreme Court held that Aereo’s streaming service violated the exclusive right of copyright owners to “publicly perform” their works. Aereo had used diabolically clever technology (or so the broadcasters claimed) in its attempt to avoid this outcome, which seems very likely to force Aereo out of business.

As I have described in detail elsewhere, Aereo’s system – which would have been unimaginable and cost-prohibitive only a few years ago – relied on thousands of antennas and massive, low-cost hard disk storage. Advances in antenna technology allowed Aereo to assign a separate micro-antenna to each paid subscriber.… Read the full article

Aereo and the Cloud Before the Supreme Court

by Lee Gesmer on June 21, 2014

Aereo and the Cloud Before the Supreme Court

This is a catch-up post on oral argument in ABC v.  Aereo, which was held on April 22, 2014.

The Supreme Court’s 2013-2014 term is almost over, and we can expect to receive the Court’s decision in Aereo on June 23rd or 30th.

A great deal has been written about whether Aereo’s TV -to-Internet service violates the TV networks’ public performance right under the transmit clause of the Copyright Act. By comparison, less has been written about the implications of the case for “cloud computing” and “cloud lockers.”*

*note: the “cloud” is simply a metaphor for data and computing power accessed via the Internet.

When the Aereo case was argued before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2012 the “cloud” was not mentioned once. (transcript) However, by the time the case reached oral argument before the Supreme Court in April 2014 cloud computing — or the implications of a Supreme Court decision in Aereo on cloud computing — seemed to have become the focus of the case.… Read the full article

CopyrightX Certificate

by Lee Gesmer on June 16, 2014

I am proud to have been a member of the CopyrightX class of 2014. If you have any doubts about the merits of online education, apply to take this course in 2015. You will be pleasantly surprised at how effective this form of education can be.

CopyrightXRead the full article

While The Author’s Guild copyright suit against Google Books has received most of the attention on the copyright law front, its smaller sibling – the Author’s copyright suit against HathiTrust – has been proceeding on a parallel track. HathiTrust is a consortium of more than 70 institutions working with Google to digitize the books in their libraries, but a smaller number of books than Google Books (only ten million), and for academic use (including an accommodation for disabled viewers), compared with Google Books’s commercial use.

On June 10, 2014, the Second Circuit upheld the federal district court, holding that HathiTrust is protected from copyright infringement under the fair use doctrine. With respect to full-text search (the most legally problematic aspect of HathiTrust), the Second Circuit held:

  • “[T]he creation of a full‐text searchable database is a quintessentially transformative use” because it serves a “new and different function.”
  • The nature of the copyrighted work (the second factor under fair use analysis) is “of limited usefulness where as here, ‘ the creative work … is being used for a transformative  purpose.’”
  • The copying was not excessive since “it  was reasonably necessary for [HathiTrust] to make use of the entirety of the works  in order to enable the full‐text search function.”
  • And lastly, “full‐text‐search use poses no harm to any existing or potential traditional market” since full-text search “does not serve as a substitute for the books that are being searched.”

Citing HathiTrust’s “extensive security measures,” the court rejected as speculative the Author’s argument that “existence of the digital copies creates the risk of  a security breach which might  impose irreparable damage on the Authors and their works.”*

*note: In an earlier post I discussed the Guild’s argument that Google Books creates the ”all too real risks of hacking, theft and widespread distribution.”  As I noted in that post, in describing that risk the Guild leaves nothing to the imagination: “just one security breach could result in devastating losses to the rightholders of the books Google has subjected to the risk of such a breach by digitizing them and placing them on the Internet.”  In response to similar arguments in HathiTrust the Second Circuit found that there is “no basis in the record on which to conclude that a security breach is likely to occur.”

HathiTrust is distinguishable from Google Books in one significant respect.… Read the full article