360° Coverage : The Right (And Wrong) Way To Think About How Aereo Works

2 Updates

The Right (And Wrong) Way To Think About How Aereo Works

Apr 22 2014, 6:51pm CDT | by

Aereo, a service that lets users record broadcast TV shows over the internet and stream the recording to their mobile devices, is fighting for its life before the Supreme Court this week. (My...

Filed under: news

 
 
 

18 weeks ago

The Right (And Wrong) Way To Think About How Aereo Works

Apr 22 2014, 6:51pm CDT | by

Aereo, a service that lets users record broadcast TV shows over the internet and stream the recording to their mobile devices, is fighting for its life before the Supreme Court this week. (My colleague J.J. Colao is there following the case.)

There are good arguments to be made that Aereo’s business model, which involves arrays of thousands of tiny antennas, is a cynical and legalistic attempt to evade copyright protection. Then there are the bad arguments, one of which comes from New York magazine’s Kevin Roose.

Roose calls the Barry Diller-backed company “a clever bit of regulatory arbitrage masquerading as a start-up.” Aereo’s lawyers would quibble with that, but I won’t. But then Roose offers this analogy to prove his point:

I work at a magazine whose content is copyrighted. Currently, it’s illegal to scan an entire issue of New York, post it on your website as a PDF, and charge visitors for access to it. But it’s legal to browse a copy of New York at your local newsstand, read every article inside, and put it back without making a purchase. It’s probably even legal for your friend to go to the newsstand, pick up the latest issue of New York, read every article to you over the phone, and put it back on the shelf without buying it. (Though I don’t recommend this — it would be painfully slow, and newsstand operators wouldn’t like it.)

Imagine if you came up with an idea for a start-up — let’s call it Readeo — that would exploit this loophole. For $8 a month, Readeo would give you the right to rent a small, magazine-reading robot. Every time you wanted to read a New York article, you’d tap a button on your iPad, and your personal Readeo robot would be dispatched to the nearest newsstand, where it would pick up a copy of the magazine and read the article to you over the phone using OCR and speech software. Now imagine that, somehow, this process could be sped up to the point where it was nearly instantaneous — desire article, tap app, dispatch robot, read article — and where the robots could replicate pictures as well as words. You’d be getting a perfect, on-demand copy of New York’s editorial content anytime you wanted it, without paying a cent to the magazine.

And our lawyers would (I imagine) sue the bejeezus out of you.

A post about digital copyright law probably isn’t the best place for me to use such an extensive blockquote, but I wanted to convey the full weirdness of Roose’s analogy. It is a very bad one. Readeo is nothing like Aereo for the simple reason that the magazines at his hypothetical local newsstand are for sale. Yes, it is legal to stand at a newsstand and read magazines to your friend over the phone. It’s also legal for the newsstand owner to tell you — or a robot — to move along and get your damn hands/servo-grippers off his merchandise. That’s why calling it a “loophole” is silly. It’s like saying it’s a loophole that you can stand in the TV section of Best Buy all day and watch ESPN. Well, sure you can.

Aereo’s not trying to resell programming that’s already for sale. It’s only providing easier and more convenient access to programming the networks themselves are giving away for free. For Roose’s analogy to work, Readeo’s robots would have to restrict themselves to reading only free magazines and newspapers, like the Village Voice.

Better yet — because who wants to sit and listen to someone read an entire magazine? — let’s say Readeo worked like this: A robot goes to the newsstand, grabs a copy of each free newspaper you request, scans the pages in, and sends a link to the private online locker where you can view them.  If another user wants to read the same newspaper, the robot has to take two copies and scan them in separately.

How would the free newspapers involved react to this scheme? They would be thrilled with it. As long as the ads got scanned in along with the articles, it wouldn’t hurt them in the least. In fact, it would help them, because print readership is so much more lucrative than digital readership. (In my hypothetical reality, as in the real one, most newspapers have free websites that don’t bring in much ad revenue.)

And this is where my own analogy breaks down, because over-the-air TV isn’t really free — not anymore. Viewers who watch ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC with a (normal-sized) antenna are getting them for free, but the majority who watch them through a cable or satellite package are paying for the privilege, indirectly, via the billions of dollars in retransmission fees pay-TV providers render unto the networks.

It’s kind of convoluted that viewers who choose to pay for one variety of TV service therefore also have to pay for another variety of service that would be free if the signals entered their homes via an antenna rather than a cable or a dish. It’s so convoluted that it resists simplification by analogy.

 
Update
2

3 days ago

Khazanah throws MAS RM6b lifeline

Aug 29 2014 5:01pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 30, 2014 1:15 AMKHAZANAH Nasional will inject RM6 billion (SS$2.4 billion) over three years to resuscitate loss-making Malaysia Airlines (MAS) under a recovery plan that includes even an Act of Parliament. Other key moves are migrating its operations, assets and liabilities to a new com ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

4 days ago

MAS posts loss of RM307m for Q2

Aug 28 2014 5:00pm CDT | Source: Business Times Singapore

August 29, 2014 1:13 AMMALAYSIA Airlines (MAS) registered a loss of RM307 million (S$122 million) for the second quarter to end-June, but warned of worse to come in the second half when the "full financial impact of the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17" h ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Nigeria to get Japanese drug for Ebola treatment
Abuja, Sep 2 (IANS) Nigeria will soon get a Japanese drug to treat Ebola, the country's Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu said Monday.
 
 
Japan to aid connectivity upgrade in northeast India
Tokyo, Sep 1 (IANS) India and Japan Monday decided to strengthen cooperation for improving connectivity and socio-economic development in northeastern states of India.
 
 
Three Ebola cases recorded in Nigeria oil hub
Abuja, Sep 1 (IANS) At least three cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) have been recorded in Nigeria's oil hub of Port Harcourt, where a fatality was confirmed last week, the country's Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu said here Monday.
 
 
India, Japan to elevate strategic partnership
Tokyo, Sep 1 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday said relations with Japan were of the "highest priority" for his government and announced a slew of initiatives, including turning the strategic partnership into a "special" partnership and a fast-track channel for Japanese investors.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Eight killed in France building collapse
Paris, Sep 2 (IANS/EFE) As many as eight people have died due to a building collapse in Paris till Monday, French emergency management services said. Firefighters had recovered before dawn Monday the bodies of two...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Modi focuses on women's empowerment, education
Tokyo, Sep 2 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday stressed on the need for women's empowerment in the present-day world as he began the fourth day of his visit to Japan. Modi, who was addressing students of the...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
George Clooney's back pain continues
Los Angeles, Sep 2 (IANS) Almost 10 years after filming the Oscar-nominated movie "Syriana", actor George Clooney is still feeling the effects of his on-set back injury. The actor traveled to Duke University earlier...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Carrie Underwood is pregnant
Carrie Underwood is pregnant. The former 'American Idol' winner, 31, and husband Mike Fisher announced on Twitter tonight (09.01.14) that they're expecting their first child together. The blonde beauty posted a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
50 Cent buys son miniature car
50 Cent bought his son a miniature car for his birthday. The 39-year-old rapper - whose real name is Curtis James Jackson - surprised Sire with a little Mercedes ML450 SUV, a smaller representation of his own vehicle,...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kirsten Dunst criticises Apple for leaked photos
Kirsten Dunst has hit out at Apple after naked photographs of her were allegedly leaked online. The 32-year-old actress took to her Twitter account last night (09.01.14) to criticize the American multinational...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Daisy Lowe feels 'rubbish' without exercise
Daisy Lowe feels ''rubbish'' if she doesn't exercise at least three times a week. The 25-year-old model admits she maintains her enviable figure by working out on a regular basis, but she still enjoys tucking in to...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Paul Smith collaborates with Led Zeppelin
London, Sep 2 (IANS) British fashion designer Paul Smith has collaborated with legendary rock band Led Zeppelin for his latest scarf collection. The London-based designer has teamed-up with the band to create the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
US continues air strikes against IS in Iraq
Washington, Sep 2 (IANS) US forces continued their attack on Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq with three more air strikes conducted Monday, the army said. The strikes destroyed three IS trucks and...
Read more on Politics Balla