Studios Slam Aereo In High Court Filings


WASHINGTON — The studios and defenders of copyrights are lining up behind broadcasters in their fight against TV streaming service Aereo, a fight they all say is for the future of high-value content on broadcast TV or an alternative flight to cable TV and other pay platforms.

Friend of the court briefs — in this case, more like “friends of the broadcasters briefs” — have been filing into the high court. At press time, attorneys for Aereo had no copies of briefs supporting their side, but pointed out that the court’s 30-day extension on Aereo’s response to the broadcaster request that the Supreme Court hear the case meant supporting briefs were also delayed 30 days — until Dec. 12.

The National Football League and Major League Baseball have already warned the court that a decision in favor of allowing Aereo to deliver TV-station signals to subscribers without paying for that programming likely means that sports events, considered unreplaceable, high-value local content, would be moving to pay TV.


Another consequence, if the court rules before the federal incentive auction of broadcast spectrum, could be to push more of the airwaves into that pot, given that a flight of content would darken the horizon for an industry already under FCC pressure to yield spectrum.

It would also threaten a huge chunk of the U.S. economy’s gross domestic product, according to a just-released study by the International Intellectual Property Alliance. The study pegs content creation and distribution by “core” copyright industries like TV, movies, music and software at more than $1 trillion annually.

According to those filings, here is a sampling of the “parade of horribles” — legal talk for all the bad outcomes — broadcaster allies say could result from an Aereo win.

Major studios Viacom and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer teamed with the Independent Film & Television Alliance — they are not always on the same page — and a number of entertainment guilds and unions to warn the court.

Calling Aereo a “Rube Goldberg-like contrivance,” they see a threat to the “windowing” model of different distribution platforms, with broadcast often the first window. That model not only compensates the big players, the unions pointed out, but also the thousands of writers, directors, cast and crew they represent. “Residuals are a crucial source of income that can be the lifeblood of individuals whose work is intermittent by its very nature,” they said in their brief.

They even suggest the Aereo model threatens their pensions and health-care plans.


In a separate brief, Time Warner Inc. anticipated Aereo’s defense as a technological innovation for consumer convenience. Wrong, the studio owner said.

“No reasonable company would have deployed Aereo’s armada of mini-antennae but for the desire to end-run the public performance right,” Time Warner said in its brief.

It would also threaten $1 trillion of the U.S. economy’s annual gross domestic product, according to a just-released study by the International Intellectual Property Alliance.


The broadcast industry’s studio allies are weighing in against TV-streaming service Aereo in briefs fi led with the Supreme Court.