Looking for a path forward after a devastating defeat in the U.S. Supreme Court, controversial streaming service Aereo has asked a Manhattan federal court to classify it as a cable company and make it eligible for the same statutory license pay TV providers pay for in providing retransmission of broadcast signals to subscribers.
"The Supreme Court's holding that Aereo is a cable system under the Copyright Act is significant because, as a cable system, Aereo is now entitled to the benefits of the copyright statutory license pursuant to the Copyright Act," wrote Aereo's legal team, in a joint memo filed by the defendant and the plaintiffs (i.e. the major U.S. broadcast networks) to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathon on Wednesday. "Aereo is proceeding to file the necessary statements of account and royalty fees."
The memo can be seen here.
In their part of the missive, the broadcasters describe themselves as "astonished" by Aereo's complete existential reversal, with the Barry Diller-backed SVOD company describing itself in the run-up to the monumental June 25 SCOTUS decision as an "equipment provider" and nothing close to a pay-TV operator.
"Whatever Aereo may say about its rationale for raising it now, it is astonishing for Aereo to contend the Supreme Court's decision automatically transformed Aereo into a cable system under Section 111 given its prior statements to this court and the Supreme Court," broadcasters' lawyers wrote.
Aereo is arguing, however, that the High Court decision effectively mandated a "new and different rule" for the company.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Aereo announced that it was suspending service, and litigation in a related case involving largely the same parties resumed in the Manhattan federal court.
In sharing the memo with media Wednesday, Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia also offered a brief statement:
"From the beginning, it has been our mission to build a lawful technology that would provide consumers with more choice and alternatives in how they watch television," he wrote. "We believed that providing an innovative cloud-based individual antenna would provide consumers with a convenient way to use an antenna to watch the live, free-to-air signals broadcast over public spectrum that belongs to them."
Paying broadcast retransmission fees would not signficantly undermine Aereo's business model, with such fees only constituting around $3.50 of the average pay TV bill.
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