The Law of Unexpected Consequences may be in play with the Supreme Court’s ruling that Aereo was violating broadcaster copyright. Aereo, which provided a service that allowed viewers to “rent” an antenna to record and stream local broadcasts over the internet, was sued by broadcasters for copyright violation. The ruling found that Aereo was not a “private performance” and thus should be subjected to paying broadcast fees.
According to the Guardian, Fox seems to have been lying in wait and filed a motion the next day to strengthen its argument against Dish’s Hopper DVR, which allows users to record and stream their service over the internet.
Fox has cited Wednesday’s ruling – which found Aereo to be operating illegally – to bolster its claim against a service offered by Dish, America’s third largest pay TV service, which streams live TV programming over the internet to its subscribers and allows them to copy programmes onto tablet computers for viewing outside the home.
While the case against Aereo was based upon the paying of broadcast fees (which Dish does pay), it will be interesting to see how this plays out. The court ruled that Aereo was not re-airing a private performance (besides the fact that each user had their own personnel antenna) and was thus subject to the rebroadcast fees. Fox has been unable in the past to successfully shut down the Hopper service and it will be interesting to see if the court rules Hopper streaming to be a private or public transmission.
Is the law of unintended consequences at play? Let’s hope not. The Supreme Court proclaimed it “does not believe its decision will discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies” – which in this case could be Hopper. Hopefully Fox is just blowing smoke and nothing will come out of their filing. It is scary though how quickly this ruling is being used to limit the types of services to consumers.