After 'Aereo,' Rethinking Copyright Online

After 'Aereo,' Rethinking Copyright Online Courtesy of Aereo

The U.S. Copyright Office wants to know what the public thinks about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling last month against Aereo Inc. as the agency studies the state of copyright law in the digital age, according to an announcement Tuesday in the Federal Register.

The office is soliciting input until Aug. 14 on the court’s June 25 decision that effectively killed the business Aereo set up for online television streaming. The agency is encouraging commenters to discuss how the decision “may affect the scope of the rights of ‘making available’ and ‘communication to the public’ in the United States,” the Federal Register notice says. The rights allow copyright holders to control the distribution of their works on the Internet.

In its 6-3 American Broadcasting Cos. v. Aereo decision, the court found that Aereo violated the copyrights of major television broadcast networks by retransmitting programs to its customers’ Internet devices for a fee. The company’s service relies on computer servers and thousands of dime-sized antennas to deliver broadcast television to its customers.

Aereo suspended its service last month and is looking to operate as a “cable system,” which the court argued it is. Under a cable system business model, the company said it would pay licensing fees, allowing it to retransmit copyrighted programming. Aereo also is lobbying Congress to protect its business.

The Federal Register announcement came as the Copyright Office is conducting various studies on the effectiveness of copyright law after the advent of digital streaming and other methods for disseminating music and videos online. These reviews include an examination of the music-licensing system, which also is under scrutiny in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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