Tin Pan Alley Pans Aereo

Music composers and authors have told the Supreme Court that if they allow Aereo to continue to operate, it will embolden other "artful dodgers" of copyright law to proliferate, including cloud-based services, suggesting they, too, should be able to deliver copyrighted content without paying for it.

"Already, enhanced cloud music services offered by Internet giants like Amazon have objected to paying public performance royalties," they said, citing the Cablevision decision that found that remote DVRs delivering cable content to individual subs were not public performances subject to additional copyright payments.

In an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), the Recording Industry Association of America, SESAC, and others representing "songwriters, composers, music publishers, recording artists, record labels, and others, said that preserving the public performance right, and payment, is crucial to their business. They say digital transmissions are becoming one of the most important revenue sources for their members.

They said the decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals not to enjoin Aereo -- it is that decision that was appealed to the Supreme Court -- could undermine what they says is Congress' clear recognition that online, interactive streaming services are providing public performances.

They also pointed out, as have a number of international copyright holders, that a decision for Aereo could put the U.S. out of compliance with international treaties.

Aereo gets to tell its side of the story by March 26, when their opening brief is due. Amici on their side must way in by April 2. Oral arguments are slated for April 22.

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.