The Supreme Court justices were critical of the Internet video service Aereo during oral arguments Tuesday — but they appeared unsure how to rule.
The justices worried that if they declare Aereo illegal, it could throw other major services, such as “cloud” storage providers, into jeopardy.
Justice Stephen Breyer said he was “nervous” about siding with TV broadcasters, who claim that Aereo is stealing their content.
“This is really hard for me,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor said.
Aereo allows subscribers to watch and record local TV broadcasts on their computers, tablets, phones, and Internet-connected TVs for as little as $8 per month. The problem is that unlike cable providers, Aereo doesn’t pay the TV stations for their content.
Everyone has the right to access over-the-air TV channels using an antenna. Aereo calls itself a “modern-day television antenna and DVR.” But Aereo subscribers don’t have antenna arms sticking out of their computers. Instead, Aereo uses a cluster of thousands of tiny antennas to deliver video over the Internet to all of the subscribers in an area. Technically, subscribers are renting access to one of those antennas.
ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox all sued, claiming Aereo is infringing on their copyrighted material. Paul Clement, an attorney for the TV networks, said Aereo is just trying to use a trick to evade copyright law.
“If all they have is a gimmick, then they probably will go out of business, and no one should cry a tear,” Clement said when he was asked what would happen to Aereo if the court sided with him.
“Your technological model is based solely on circumventing legal prohibitions that you don’t want to comply with,” Chief Justice John Roberts said to Aereo’s attorney, David Frederick.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg worried that siding with Aereo could violate international obligations under copyright treaties.
“You’re the only player so far that doesn’t pay any royalties at any stage,” Ginsburg said to Frederick.
But Frederick argued the company is only an “equipment provider.” RadioShack doesn’t infringe on any copyrights by selling its products, he said.
Frederick argued that for legal purposes, Aereo’s business would be no different if it installed antennas and DVRs and then charged a monthly rental fee.
He warned that if the court sides with the TV networks, it could devastate the cloud computing industry. Companies like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Dropbox also allow consumers to store copyrighted material on their servers. Frederick said the cloud companies are “freaked out about this case.”
But Clement said the difference between legitimate cloud storage sites and Aereo is like the difference between a valet service and a car dealership. Consumers need to already have a car to use a valet service. Because Aereo is providing material to consumers in the first place, it should have to pay for it (just like a car dealership would), Clement said.
Breyer said that even after reading the briefs in the case, he remains confused.
“That isn’t your problem, but it might turn out to be,” Breyer said to Aereo’s attorney.
What We're Following See More »
“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” started Bill Clinton. In his speech Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton brought a personal touch, telling parallel stories of his relationship with Hillary Clinton and the work she has done throughout her career. He lauded the Democratic nominee for her career of work, touching on her earliest days of advocacy for children and those with disabilities while in law school, her role as Secretary of State, and her work in raising their daughter, Chelsea. Providing a number of anecdotes throughout the speech, Clinton built to a crescendo, imploring the audience to support his wife for president. "You should elect her, she'll never quit when the going gets tough," he said. "Your children and grandchildren will be grateful."
A coalition of mothers whose children lost their lives in high profile cases across the country, known as the Mothers Of The Movement, were greeted with deafening chants of "Black Lives Matter" before telling their stories. The mothers of Sandra Bland, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin spoke for the group, soliciting both tears and applause from the crowd. "Hillary Clinton has the compassion and understanding to comfort a grieving mother," said Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. "And that's why, in the memory of our children, we are imploring you — all of you — to vote this election day."
With the South Dakota delegation announcing its delegate count, Hillary Rodham Clinton is officially the Democratic nominee for president, surpassing the 2383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Clinton is expected to speak at the convention on Thursday night and officially accept the nomination.
About 5,500, according to official estimates. "The Monday figures marked a large increase from the protests at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where even the largest protests only drew a couple of hundred demonstrators. But it’s a far cry from the 35,000 to 50,000 that Philadelphia city officials initially expected."
Only a day after FiveThirtyEight's Now Cast gave Donald Trump a 57% chance of winning, the New York Times' Upshot fires back with its own analysis that shows Hillary Clinton with a 68% chance to be the next president. Its model "calculates win probabilities for each state," which incorporate recent polls plus "a state's past election results and national polling." Notably, all of the battleground states that "vote like the country as a whole" either lean toward Clinton or are toss-ups. None lean toward Trump.