Copyright Office: Aereo Isn't Cable

The U.S. Copyright Office has informed Aereo that it does not believe it qualifies for a compulsory license, but given that Aereo has raised the issue of its status in court, says it will accept its filings for that license on a provisional basis.

Aereo, citing the Supreme Court's finding that it was similar to a cable system, filed for the compulsory license that would allow it to carry TV station signals, arguing that like cable it was eligible for that license.

The Copyright Office saw it differently. In a letter to Aereo dated July 16, Jacqueline Charlesworth, general counsel and associate register of copyrights, said that, in the view of the Copyright Office, Internet transmissions of broadcast TV fall outside the scope of the Sec. 111 license. It cited a Second Circuit decision that the license applies to localized retransmission services that are "regulated as cable systems by the FCC," and said the office "[did] not see anything in the Supreme Court's recent decision that would alter this conclusion."

The Copyright Office could have accepted Aereo's filing or refused it as not eligible under the license, but instead said it would not process them at this time.

"In recognition of the fact that Aereo has raised the issue before the courts, the Office will not refuse Aereo's filings—a total of $5,310.74 in filing fees and royalties—but will instead accept them on a provisional basis," said Charlesworth in the letter.

But the Copyright Office reserved the right, depending on "further regulatory or judicial developments" or based on its own further review, to take further action, including ultimatedly rejecting them.

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.