San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today filed an amicus brief in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, a case before the United States Supreme Court that could have a lasting impact on broadcast technology and viewers' ability to choose how and when they watch their favorite television programs. Public Knowledge, the Consumer Electronics Association, and Engine Advocacy all joined the brief, asking the Supreme Court to leave room for innovation in digital technology.
Through Aereo, consumers rent access to a unique TV antenna that is connected to the Internet, allowing them to stream free-to-air shows privately on their connected computers and devices. Perceiving a threat to the television industry, four broadcasting networks sued Aereo, claiming the company violated copyright law by making a "public performance" of the programs without a license. Both a federal trial court and an appellate court ruled in Aereo's favor; EFF is asking the Supreme Court to do the same.
"The networks would like the court to expand copyright law far beyond what Congress intended," EFF Staff Attorney Mitch Stoltz said. "The networks' interpretation of the law would strip away the commercial freedom that led to the home stereo, the VCR, all manner of personal audio and video technology and to Internet services of many kinds."
In the new brief, EFF argues that Aereo does not make "public performances," but rather provides a way for individual users to make "private, personal transmissions," which are not covered by U.S. copyright law. In constructing the law this way, Congress intended to leave room for new businesses outside of the media conglomerates to create new innovation in personal video technology.
"The stakes in this case are bigger than just the survival of one startup company," said Stoltz. "Broadcasters want the Supreme Court to give them control over any technology that touches a TV signal. But copyright was never intended to do that."
For the full Supreme Court brief:
Electronic Frontier Foundation