As the days tick down before Aereo presents its case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the company is going on the PR offensive.
On Apr. 17, the New York City-based startup launched ProtectMyAntenna.org to inform users about the tech behind the company's Internet-TV streaming. It reads: "Aereo's technology provides a consumer the ability to use a remotely located individual antenna to access free-to-air broadcasts, make a personal copy of a program on a remote DVR, and play back that copy only to him or herself. Using the cloud, Aereo was able to develop a smarter, more sophisticated antenna, purpose-built for the 21st century consumer."
The case before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22, American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo, Inc., is expected to yield a decision that's fateful not just for the existence of this scrappy, 115-person company but also for the future of America's broadcast airwaves--and possibly for cloud computing, too. The broadcasters argue that Aereo's act of streaming content through the cloud constitutes an act of "public performance" of copyrighted material. It's natural to wonder: What else do we access through the cloud that could be affected by this ruling?
Not only are the stakes high leading into Tuesday's arguments and the following deliberations, but the decision is highly uncertain. As Jonathan Handel wrote Apr. 15 in The Hollywood Reporter: "The case is so complex and the copyright and communications statutes so intricate that one advocate said the decision could end up as lopsided as 7-1--in either direction."
There was concern that the Court's decision could be locked in a 4-4 tie, because Justice Samuel Alito had recused himself from participating, possibly due to he or his family owning stock in a litigant. But this week in a surprise move, he reversed that, and his renewed participation is listed on the case's public docket as of Apr. 16.
You can read more of Aereo's argument here.
And here's the brief filed by the broadcast establishment, including ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, among others.
Check out Scotusblog for more documents, including amici briefs, as well as the briefs of the petitioner and respondent.
Also this week, Aereo gave TechCrunch a look at its rooftop antenna farm in Boston. It's not much to see from the outside, as the thousands of tiny antennas and their antenna boards, and the shelving units that hold them, are all encased in a 10-foot-wide beige plastic box. Yes, it's not even translucent, but the signals can travel through it.
I spent a lot of time with Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia while reporting a feature on the company that will appear in the May issue of Inc. magazine. We'll publish that piece online shortly, so stay tuned.
Update: Here's the feature, "This Startup Is Shaking TV Networks--All the Way to the Supreme Court."