Cablevision Goes Both Ways on Aereo

WASHINGTON — Cablevision Systems has taken aim at both broadcasters and Aereo, which are battling each other, in hopes of protecting its own content from online freeloaders without losing its ability to provide remote DVR functionality to its customers.

In a filing with the Supreme Court last week, the Bethpage, N.Y.-based cable operator said that the court should find Aereo — a subscription over-the-top service that delivers local TV stations without retransmission consent — illegal.

But Cablevision said it should do so without overturning the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit’s decision that Cablevision’s Remote Storage Digital Video Recorder (RS-DVR) was not providing public performances subject to a separate copyright payment. (Aereo relies on tiny, individual antennas for each subscriber in order to get around that public-performance restriction.)

Cablevision said such a decision could jeopardize the cloud storage industry. Broadcasters disagree, and even the Obama administration has said the Supreme Court can smack down Aereo without raining on the cloud, as it were. But Cablevision isn’t so sure.

“Instead of focusing narrowly on the lawfulness of the Aereo service, the broadcasters appear to be asking the Supreme Court to undo decades of federal copyright law precedent and overturn the legal foundation on which cloud-based technologies have flourished,” Cablevision said. “If those arguments are adopted, such a reversal of legal precedent could stifle innovation and future cloud-based technologies.”

Cablevision should get some sense of how the high court sees the issue on April 22, when oral argument is scheduled, but probably won’t get an answer until late June, when the court is expected to rule.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.