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Aereo antennas Supreme Court case: Pros and cons of dime-sized antennas

Aereo CEO talks with Katie Couric about why he thinks his tiny antenna should be allowed to capture TV programs for free.
Aereo CEO talks with Katie Couric about why he thinks his tiny antenna should be allowed to capture TV programs for free.
Yahoo News

Consumer groups support the effort of the Aereo company using their new dime-sized antennas to capture broadcasting transmissions at no charge from large television networks like ABC, CBS, Fox News and NBC. These consumer groups like the idea that private individuals can pay $8 fees to Aereo to receive the same products they have paid much more for from television cable companies in the past. But broadcasters, the Obama administration, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) feel that this capture of over-the-air signals from the broadcasters (for use by a new company for their own profit) is a violation of federal copyright law. And on April 17, Katie Couric asked Aereo CEO Chet Kanjia what he thought about that argument, according to Yahoo News.

Katie began her interview by reciting a quote from Chase Carey, who's the COO of News Corp., which owns Fox. Carey had said "We need to be able to be fairly compensated for our content. We can't sit idly by and let an entity steal our signal." So Katie wanted to know what was Chet's response to that statement about the company he manages.

I think he is absolutely right that they have a right to be fairly compensated," the Aereo CEO stated. But the dime-sized antenna company executive went on to discuss how he feels broadcasters are fairly compensated for their content each year, stating that they receive over 90 percent of their money from advertising dollars.

At issue, however, is the fact that Aereo will profit 100 percent from the copyrighted use of broadcasters' material without having to pay anyone for that pleasure and profit. They will not have contributed anything to the creation of the television programs they stream through their product to end users, yet they will reap all the benefits of it.

And that is why the Obama administration has sided with the broadcasters in a case that will now be heard and decided at the Supreme Court level when the American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo is heard at the Court beginning April 22.

The pros in support of Aereo according to Barry Diller, who heads Aereo's parent company IAC, include more choices for consumers in the way they access television programming digitally. Diller feels that Internet distribution protocols must advance as technology advances, even if that advancement results in a restructuring of certain markets. The pro for consumers is less expense for access to broadcasted televised programming, and a greater flexibility about how they access it.

The cons include the concern that large television networks might then choose to stop funding the creative program process or create a more difficult environment for consumers to access their favorite programs, and with greater expense, in order to prevent the free transmission of service. In addition, complaints from some of the consumers in the 11-city market where Aereo currently provides service (like Atlanta) show that at least one of their customers is complaining on pcmag.com about the company's poor streaming video service during prime time hours. That raises this question: If the tiny antenna company does get the green light from the Supreme Court to stream television programming from broadcasters, will they be able to satisfy their new customers during peak viewing times?

Other drawbacks against Aereo being allowed to access over-the-air broadcasted programs at no charge include the fact that writers and creative staff who developed the television programs will not be compensated in any way for their work. Instead, the new company will be accessing that material for free and selling it for their own profit. Additionally, the broadcasting networks who fund and market those program products will see no revenue stream from their investments either. And that is why broadcasters are creating contingency plans to address the alleged copyright theft in the event the Supreme Court sides with Aereo.