Katherine Welles /


Web TV service Aereo takes on U.S. TV broadcasters at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. It’s a fascinating story, and lots of people are taking a crack at telling it. We’ll have a few attempts at our own shortly.

But lots of coverage of Aereo vs. the TV Industrial Complex comes with big servings of hype and spin (Aereo will destroy TV! The TV guys will destroy the cloud!). Nothing wrong with that — it makes for zestier stories — unless you’re trying to parse the actual legal issues at play next week.

Then you’d probably want something more staid and neutral.

So here’s Lyle Denniston, a longtime legal reporter, writing for SCOTUSblog, with a lengthy, straight-ahead preview of the case. I’ve been watching Aereo since 2011, back when it was called BamBoom, and this is about as comprehensive  — and middle-of-the-road — as I’ve seen when it comes to legal analysis.

It also provides a pretty good one-sentence summary of the arguments: “The broadcasters want the focus entirely on what Aereo itself does and how it operates its system from the top down; Aereo wants the focus entirely on the choices that its customers make from the bottom up.”

If you’re going watch or talk about the case on Tuesday, well worth making the time to read the rest this weekend.

Patrick Newbery
Patrick Newbery

I wonder how the legal argument would be interpreted if Aereo changed their business model; instead of a user subscribing to a service, they bought the cloud antenna and then simply paid a nominal service fee for hosting/access to their files.

J. S. Greenfield
J. S. Greenfield

There's no question that Denniston works hard to provide a neutral presentation.  Unfortunately, I think there's considerable question as to whether he provides sufficient detail to really inform readers as to the competing arguments.  And there's no question that in his set-up, he badly mischaracterizes the precedents prior to and leading to the 1976 Copyright Act, what Congress actually changed with the 1976 Copyright Act, and what the Court held in the Sony Betamax case.


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