Aereo will probably not be able to survive its defeats by both the courts and government bureaucracy.
In what could amount to the death blow for Barry Diller’s Internet based, live streaming television service Aereo, on July 16th the US Copyright Office sent the company a letter announcing that it would not accept any fees from Aereo. This means that the company will not be able to transform itself into a cable-like provider of programming as it had hoped.
Aereo submitted a $5, 310.74 fee to the Copyright Office in an attempt to be included in a compulsory licensing system that permits certain cable companies to retransmit signals of American broadcast networks. This was in response to the June 25 US Supreme Court ruling that determined that the company was acting like a cable company and, as such, needed to pay royalties to the broadcasters for retransmitting their programming.
The more than $5 million will go to reimbursement for the use of network broadcasts in the years 2012 and 2013. The Copyright Office said it would only provisionally accept the payment because, in its words, “In the view of the Copyright Office, internet retransmissions of broadcast television fall outside the scope of the Section 111 license” Aereo wanted to be included in.
The US Copyright Office said it would look into the matter over the next thirty days, before making a final decision, and invited public comments.
Aereo originally maintained that it should not be required to pay, since it only provided its users with the equipment needed to, in effect, “Tivo” network programming without paying for cable. It did so by providing each user with his own, dedicated, dime size antenna, that received the broadcast signal and retransmitted it through the Internet by way of the company’s servers.
After the Supreme Court ruling, Aereo ceased operations and promised to refund the fees already paid it by subscribers. Those fees — $8 to $12 – are a fraction of the monthly cable fees users pay in America.
The company posted a one page statement on its website at the time, declaring its intent to lobby the US Congress to change the copyright laws. It asked its supporters to write letters to their local representatives in a campaign to get the law changed.