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

 
 
 

26 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

7 weeks 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 company (NewCo) and slashing the ...
Source: Business Times Singapore   Full article at: Business Times Singapore
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks 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 ...
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

Indians in Gambia contribute to Ebola fight
Dakar (Senegal), Oct 22 (IANS) The Indian community in neighbouring Gambia, one of the three countries in West
 
 
Cuba to move UN for lifting of US embargo
New York, Oct 22 (IANS) The Cuban government will submit a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Oct 28 to end an economic, financial and trade embargo the US has imposed on it.
 
 
Togo is free from Ebola, asserts PM
Cairo, Oct 22 (IANS) Togolese Prime Minister Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu has asserted that his country is free from Ebola disease, saying that all preventive measures have been taken on borders, airports and harbours to detect the virus.
 
 
Former Washington Post editor Benjamin Bradlee dead
Washington, Oct 22 (IANS/EFE) Benjamin Bradlee, the man who turned The Washington Post into a global name and made history with the paper's coverage of the "Watergate" scandal, died at his home in Washington DC at the age of 93 from natural causes, the Post reported.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

European Champions League standings
Paris, Oct 22 (IANS) Following are the European Champions League standings for Groups E to H after Tuesday's matches (tabulated under matches played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, against, points), according to Xinhua...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Rogerio set to break Giggs world record
Rio de Janeiro, Oct 22 (IANS) Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni is one victory away from earning his fourth Guinness World Record by eclipsing a mark held by Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs. The 41-year-old will...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Ryan Reynolds can't keep his hands off Blake Lively
Ryan Reynolds was ''really sweet'' to Blake Lively at the Angel City Ball. The couple, who got married in September 2012, made their first red carpet appearance together in New York City on Monday night (10.20.14) since...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kris Jenner doesn't know who Bruce Jenner is dating
Kris Jenner has ''no idea'' whether Bruce Jenner is dating her best friend. The 58-year-old reality TV star, who split from the Olympic gold medallist last October after 23 years of marriage, claims she doesn't know if...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
When Rihanna dressed like 'Harry Potter'
New York, Oct 22 (IANS) Singer Rihanna was spotted here in a Harry Potter style costume. She wore the wizard-like get-up while heading for a business meal here Monday, reports mirror.co.uk. The 26-year-old combined a...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Germany raises humanitarian aid to Iraq
Berlin, Oct 22 (IANS) Germany has pledged a further 20 million euros (about 25.5 million dollars) in humanitarian aid to Iraq, the foreign ministry said in a statement Tuesday. The additional funds are immediately...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
India calls on Israel, Palestine to resume peace process
United Nations, Oct 22 (IANS) India has called upon Israelis and Palestinians to resume the peace process as "dialogue remains the only viable option" to address the issues confronting the region. In a brief statement...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Airstrikes help ground forces fight IS: Pentagon
Washington, Oct 22 (IANS) Kurdish forces are in control of the majority of the Syrian city of Kobane despite efforts by the Islamic State (IS) to take the town, a spokesperson for US defence department said Tuesday....
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Palestine, Israel urged at UN to halt unilateral initiatives
United Nations, Oct 22 (IANS) UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon Tuesday called on Palestine and Israel to overcome differences and halt unilateral initiatives that fuel mistrust, so as to pursue long-term stability in...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
China urges Israel to create conditions for peace
United Nations, Oct 22 (IANS) Chinese government has called on Israel to create necessary conditions for the resumption of peace talks with Palestine. At an open debate of the Security Council on the situation of the...
Read more on Politics Balla