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July 17, 2014
Who decides what makes a cable company?
In the latest twist to the Aereo Inc. story, the US Copyright Office has stated its opinion that the streaming video startup doesn't qualify as a cable enterprise. According to a letter from the Copyright Office obtained by CNBC, officials told Aereo that "in the view of the Copyright Office, Internet retransmissions of broadcast television fall outside the scope of the Section 111 license."
After Aereo lost its Supreme Court case last month against broadcasters, the company announced it was seeking a copyright statutory license that would give it the right to negotiate retransmission fees like a cable operator. Although Aereo previously argued against the idea that it should be considered a cable company, executives did a U-turn when the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo "is for all practical purposes a traditional cable system." (See Supreme Court Halts Aereo's Flight and Is This Aereo's Back-Up Plan?)
Aereo declined to comment on the letter from the Copyright Office, but that may be because the company is still waiting on a lower court ruling on whether it should be allowed a Section 111 compulsory license. In the meantime, the Copyright Office has said it would hold on to Aereo's filing while waiting for a court decision.
Separately, the Copyright Office asked for public comment last week on how the Supreme Court's ruling on Aereo affects existing copyright law. The request is part of a larger study by the Copyright Office on "the state of US law recognizing and protecting 'making available' and 'communication to the public' rights for copyright holders." The comment period is open until August 14.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading
Senior Editor, Cable/Video
Mari Silbey is a senior editor covering broadband infrastructure, video delivery, smart cities and all things cable. Previously, she worked independently for nearly a decade, contributing to trade publications, authoring custom research reports and consulting for a variety of corporate and association clients. Among her storied (and sometimes dubious) achievements, Mari launched the corporate blog for Motorola's Home division way back in 2007, ran a content development program for Limelight Networks and did her best to entertain the video nerd masses as a long-time columnist for the media blog Zatz Not Funny. She is based in Washington, D.C.
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