Copyright Office says Aereo isn't cable but will provisionally accept its filings anyway

The U.S. Supreme Court may have called Aereo a cable company, but that's not what the streaming service is in the eyes of the U.S. Copyright Office.

The Copyright Office told Aereo that it doesn't believe the company qualifies for a statutory license to retransmit broadcast TV signals. However, since Aereo has made the matter an issue in a Manhattan federal court, the Copyright Office will accept its license filings on a provisional basis.

In a letter sent Wednesday, July 16 to Aereo executive Matthew Calabro, Jacqueline Charlesworth, general counsel and associate register of copyrights, writes that, "In the view of the Copyright Office, Internet retransmissions of broadcast television falls outside the scope of the Section 111 license."

The Copyright Office cited a Second Circuit Court decision ruling that a statutory license applies to local transmission services that are "regulated as cable systems by the Federal Communications Commission."

A week earlier, Aereo had filed a brief with a Manhattan federal court, stating that the June 25 Supreme Court ruling against it had transformed the company into a cable operator under Section 111 of the Copyright Act and thus entitles it to "compulsory license" to broadcast TV content.

Because of this, the Copyright Office left the door open for Aereo, noting that In recognition of the ongoing legal proceedings, it wouldn't refuse Aereo's filings, but would rather accept them on a provisional basis. 

An Aereo spokesperson declined comment, 

Going in, media lawyers observing Aereo's case viewed the company's bid for a statutory license as a long shot, noting that the Copyright Office has repeatedly denied online TV distributors' requests for them.

"It's a long way from a slam dunk," lawyer John Hane told The Wall Street Journal. "And even if they succeed, they are subject to all cable rules."

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story
- read this CNBC story
- read this Wall Street Journal story

Related links:
Aereo reinvents itself as 'cable company,' seeks retransmission license
Analyst: Did Supreme Court just allow Internet companies to call themselves cable operators?
Aereo's Kanojia implores subscribers: 'Write your local congressman'