Dec 12 Cablevision Systems Corp said on
Thursday that broadcast networks are seeking a "radical" legal
ruling that would spell trouble for cloud-based content services
and threaten Cablevision's ability to offer DVR recording to its
The position taken by Cablevision is the latest development
in hard-fought litigation involving Aereo, an online television
venture backed by Barry Diller, as well as broadcast networks
and cable providers.
Broadcasters including Walt Disney Co's ABC and
Comcast Corp's NBCUniversal claim that Aereo's
streaming service violates their copyright. Aereo does not pay
licensing fees to the broadcasters, while pay-TV operators, such
as Cablevision and Comcast, shell out billions in retransmission
consent fees to broadcasters.
The television industry is closely watching the case to see
whether it could disrupt the traditional TV model. The industry
sees Aereo and similar services as a threat to its ability to
control subscription fees and generate advertising income, its
two main sources of revenue.
Earlier this year a federal appeals court in New York
refused to shut down Aereo, and broadcasters including ABC and
NBCUniversal appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court
has not yet said whether it will hear the case.
Like the broadcasters, Cablevision thinks the 2nd U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals should have ruled against Aereo.
However, in a white paper released on Thursday, Cablevision
argued that the broadcasters were asking the U.S. Supreme Court
to go much further and undo the legal underpinnings of
cloud-based content services.
Cloud-based computing refers to services that are offered
remotely via the Internet.
Representatives for Comcast, CBS and Aereo declined to
comment. Representatives for Walt Disney Co, CBS and
Twenty-First Century Fox Inc could not immediately
Subscribers to Aereo can stream live broadcasts of TV
channels on mobile devices using miniature antennas, each
assigned to one subscriber. The service was launched in March
2012 in the New York area at a cost to subscribers of $12 a
month. The company has since expanded to about 10 cities with
plans to enter several more next year.
Under U.S. law, copyright owners have the exclusive right to
publicly perform their work. Broadcasters argue that Aereo's
transmissions of television programs while the programs are
airing is a public performance of the broadcasters' copyrighted
Earlier this year Aereo's chief executive, Chet Kanojia,
said the technology "falls square within the law" and called it
"a great thing for consumers."
According to Cablevision, broadcasters are overreaching in
arguing that downloaded content should be considered public
performances akin to contemporaneous live streaming. That would
impose vast new liability on Cablevision's DVR service.
"Their approach poses a fundamental threat to cloud
technologies," Cablevision said. "And it would also upset the
settled distinction between downloading and streaming."
The case in the U.S. Supreme Court is American Broadcasting
Companies Inc et al. vs. Aereo Inc., 13-461.