Tech-Wary Supreme Court Joining Digital Age

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Wednesday that the Supreme Court is working on a modest initiative to provide greater transparency by making all documents filed with the court available online. But Roberts referred only obliquely to other calls for more transparency — such as televised oral arguments or same-day audio of the court’s sessions — and made no apologies for what he described as the court’s tortoise-like implementation of modern technology.

Copyright Office Rebuffs Aereo Cable Play

In its Aereo ruling last month, the Supreme Court said that Aereo was “highly similar” to a cable system. But now the Copyright Office says it does not “see anything” in the ruling that would cause it to alter its long-standing opposition to extending the cable compulsory license to online distributors. “In the view of the Copyright Office, Internet retransmission of broadcast television falls outside the scope of [the] license,” it said.

JESSELL AT LARGE

Aereo Still Trying To Get By Without Paying

After its loss at the Supreme Court, Aereo’s new tack is to declare itself a cable system with the ability to use the compulsory license to cover the liability just as every regular cable systems does. The problem with that is that it has still not acknowledged in any forum that it is willing to accept not only the privileges of being a cable system, most notably the compulsory license, but also the obligations, most notably retransmission consent. Without a commitment to pay retrans, Aereo is simply playing the same old game, trying to skate by without paying for programming.

1st Amendment And Social Media On Docket

The case, Elonis v. United States, will be argued before the Supreme Court this fall and will require the court to consider how the First Amendment applies to social media. Adam Liptak looks at how the court has ruled in other cases that involved “emerging technology before its role in society has become clear.”

Supreme Court Lets ‘Red Lion’ Live

The Supreme Court has declined to review the latest case that offered the court the opportunity to declare its 1969 Red Lion decision — and, more importantly, the spectrum scarcity rationale on which it was based — no longer viable. As a result, broadcasters will continue to bear the second-class First Amendment status to which they have been officially subjected for nearly 50 years.

Supremes Won’t Review Public TV Ad Case

A law restricting advertising on public television will remain in place after the Supreme Court refused to review a case in which KMTP San Francisco challenged its FCC fine for airing messages from a bevy of commercial sponsors.

JESSELL AT LARGE

Aereo Ruling Opens Big Opportunity For TV

The way I see it, in closing the door on Aereo, the Supreme Court opened wide the door for the video distribution of broadcast signals by settling the question of whether online video distributors are cable systems. Clearly, they are, the court says. So, in effect, an online video distributor that wants to carry a broadcast signal no longer has to worry about clearing copyrights of individual rights holders, including the rapacious sports leagues. It only has to get permission from the broadcasters.

LEGAL MEMO BY MICHAEL BERG

Takeaways From The ABC v. Aereo Decision

The Supreme Court’s ruling this week upholding broadcasters’ contention that the Aereo streaming service violated their copyrights was a major victory for the television business. The court majority held that Aereo technology created no critical copyright law differences between it and cable systems, which must have broadcasters’ prior consent and pay for use of their programming. Now, it seems likely that Aereo will press its case in Congress to change the federal Copyright Act to legalize Aereo and, in effect, reverse the Supreme Court.

UPDATED, 2:02 P.M.

SCOTUS Sides With TV Against Aereo

The justices said Wednesday by a 6-3 vote that Aereo Inc. is violating the broadcasters’ copyrights by taking the signals for free. The ruling preserves the ability of the television networks to collect huge fees from cable and satellite systems that transmit their programming. Plenty of reaction from both sides.

NEWS ANALYSIS

Aereo And Supremes: What Are The Odds?

The court has announced that it will be handing down opinions on June 19, 23 and 30; there’s also the possibility that it will add more dates, although, obviously, time is fast running out. Since the Supremes traditionally resolve all pending cases before they split every year toward the end of June, we can be reasonably confident that the Aereo decision is on its way, real soon. Here are seven separate Aereo-related points about which to speculate and prognosticate.

SCOTUS Holds Out Against Cameras

As other courts have increasingly let in cameras, open-government advocates have heightened calls for the Supreme Court to do so too. The justices, however, remain opposed to the idea.

If Aereo Wins, TV’s Next Move Could Be FCC

While broadcasters — including CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC — are hopeful that the Supreme Court will side with them, if not they won’t be throwing in the towel if the court rules in the next few weeks that the streaming service does not violate copyright law.

SCOTUS: Pom Can Sue Coke Over Label

The Supreme Court has given Pom Wonderful the go-ahead to sue Coca-Cola in a case expected to have significant ramifications for the food and beverage industry, in terms of how foods are named and marketed via labeling.

Aereo SCOTUS Win Could Hurt TV Stocks

Wells Fargo securities analyst Marci Ryvicker says a victory for Aereo at the Supreme Court would likely send pure-play TV stocks lower by 15%-20%. The ruling is expected before July 4 and could come as early as today.

Court Denies Reporter’s Bid To Protect Source

The Supreme Court today rejected an appeal from New York Times reporter James Risen, who detailed a botched CIA effort during the Clinton administration to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Risen’s reporting is at the center of criminal charges against former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling. Federal prosecutors want to force Risen to testify about his sources at Sterling’s trial.

SCOTUS Turns Down Winter Source Case

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the lawyers of movie theater killer James Holmes who demanded FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter be compelled to testify about the source of one of her stories. The high court’s decision keeps in place a December ruling from the New York Court of Appeals ending the nearly two-year-long legal fight.

LEGAL MEMO BY MICHAEL BERG

A Berg’s-Eye View Of Aereo Oral Arguments

Attorney Michael Berg, TVNewsCheck‘s Legal Memo columnist, was on hand for the April 22 arguments at the Supreme Court in ABC v. Aereo and he offers his observations on the questions and answers and also details the various friend of the court briefs and other filings made shortly before the hearing. While predicting outcomes from oral arguments is a very risky game, Berg says: “In this case I sensed that the SC majority is unlikely to buy Aereo’s copyright argument that it is just an equipment provider and there is no public performance and therefore no copyright obligations for sale of access to the broadcast signals.”

NEWS ANALYSIS BY PAUL A. CICELSKI

Court Seems Skeptical About Aereo’s Case

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Aereo case, providing the first indication of how the justices view the case pitting Aereo against content providers, particularly broadcast networks. What was a bit of a surprise was the extent to which the justices’ questions focused on Aereo’s strategic effort to cloak itself as just another provider of cloud services.

Chief Justice Slams Aereo At Hearing

If you thought that the legal dispute between Aereo and the broadcasters was combative, it paled compared with today’s one-hour hearing at the Supreme Court. In oral arguments before the nine Justices, both sides took some heavy blows, but the Barry Diller-backed streaming service definitely took one to the jaw from Chief Justice John Roberts.

UPDATED, 2:43 P.M. ET

It’s Copyright Vs. Cloud At Aereo Hearing

Chief Justice John Roberts repeatedly asked whether Aereo’s tiny antennas existed for any reason other than to avoid paying the broadcasters for their content. “Is there any reason you need 10,000 of them?” Roberts said at one point. But several justices expressed concern that a ruling for the broadcasters could hamper the continuing development of cloud computing, which gives users access to a vast online computer network that stores and processes information.

SCOTUS To Allow Feds To Argue In Aereo

Looks like three isn’t a crowd for the Supreme Court when it comes to the upcoming Aereo hearing. The high court has decided to let the Solicitor General’s office participate in the one-hour oral arguments session between Aereo and the broadcasters Tuesday in Washington.

Justice Alito Will Participate In Aereo Case

The Supreme Court disclosed Wednesday, in routine entries on its docket, that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., will now be taking part in two cases from which he had held himself out earlier — both set for argument next week — including American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo. Alito had not taken part when the court issued preliminary orders. No explanation was given, but it was assumed that he had financial investments that made his recusal necessary. The announcement ends concerns over a tie.

LEGAL MEMO BY MICHAEL BERG

ABC v. Aereo: What Happened, What’s Next

Here’s a roundup of the activity in March in the Supreme Court’s ABC v. Aereo copyright infringement case with filings by both sides. There were also supporting arguments filed for both broadcasters and Aereo. And finally, there’s a timetable for upcoming activity.

STATION ADVISORY

SCOTUS Giveth Where The FCC Taketh Away

After Monday’s FCC meeting left television broadcasters facing higher expenses and lower revenues by restricting the use of joint sales agreements and joint retransmission negotiations, broadcasters were due for some good news. Where the FCC is the bearer of bad news, it has often fallen to the courts to be the bearer of good news, generally by overruling the adverse FCC decision. Unfortunately, that process can take years, meaning that in Washington you have to take a very long term view of “the good outweighs the bad.”

Diller: Aereo ‘Finished’ If It Loses At SCOTUS

The IAC chief, one of Aereo‘s top backers, told Bloomberg Television’s Market Makers that it’s “very possible that there’s some salvage. But Aereo would probably, as I say probably just because I can’t — I can’t see any path forward. It probably would not be able to continue in business.”

Supreme Court Eases Campaign Finance Caps

In a 5-4 decision today, the Supreme Court strikes down limits on the aggregate amount that Americans can donate to all candidates in an election cycle — a move that is likely to increase the amount of campaign money that is raised and spent. However, the ruling does not disturb the cap on contributions to individual candidates.

Aereo Blasts Broadcasters In SCOTUS Brief

Aereo may have agreed with broadcasters late last year that the best venue for their ongoing legal “war of attrition” is the Supreme Court. But as Wednesday’s response brief (read it here) to the plaintiffs reveals, that’s all the two sides agree on in this case

Aereo’s Kanojia: We Either Win Or Disappear

There’s no “Plan B” for Aereo: It either wins its copyright battle with broadcasters in the Supreme Court battle or it disappears from the video landscape, CEO Chet Kanojia says.

NEW YORK TIMES V. SULLIVAN AT 50

Landmark Libel Case Relevant In Digital Age

When New York Times v. Sullivan was decided by the Supreme Court 50 years ago Sunday, newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations were the primary means of publishing. Today, the case applies equally to new media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Because of the ease of publishing online, more people may claim the protections granted by the decision and others that followed.

Administration Backs Broadcasters On Aereo

The Solicitor General of the U.S. put his name and that of the Obama administration solidly in the anti-Aereo camp with an amicus brief (read it here) filed with the Supreme Court today.

LEGAL MEMO BY MICHAEL D. BERG

Lots Of Action Soon In SC’s ‘Aereo’ Case

February has been a busy month in the pending ABC v. Aereo Supreme Court (SC) case and there’s plenty on tap for March and April. Here’s a summary of the activity and a preview of what’s next in the case that will decide whether Aereo’s TV station retransmission business is legal or not.

TV Nets Warn SCOTUS Of Aereo Win Dangers

In their opening brief to the Supreme Court, broadcasters challenge the legality of Aereo but also say that a win for the start-up streaming service would be “deeply problematic” and force them to reconsider the quality and quantity of shows on free, over-the-air TV.

Supreme Court Won’t Review Tennis Channel Appeal

Aereo SCOTUS Arguments Set For April 22

The broadcasters and Aereo will argue their case before the Supreme Court on April 22 at 11 a.m., the court announced today. The court agreed on Jan. 10 to hear arguments on the petition that ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and several other broadcasters submitted on Oct. 11, 2013.

NEWS ANALYSIS

What Would An Aereo High Court Win Mean?

That’s still a big question for broadcast TV investors today following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to hear the industry’s claim that Aereo infringes on their copyrights with it streams their over-the-air programming without permission. Most broadcast company stocks including Sinclair, Gannett, and Gray Television are down today, slightly more than the overall market. But Wall Street analysts — who typically like to encourage people to buy stocks — mostly urge investors to relax.

Cablevision Blasts Bcstrs’ SCOTUS Filing

Cablevision Systems Corp. criticized the arguments made by broadcasters in a Supreme Court filing seeking to shut down Aereo, a start-up company that delivers local television station signals to consumers via the Internet. Cablevision said the case that broadcasters including Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC are attempting to make against Aereo is a “willful attempt to stifle innovation.”

TV-Aereo Battle Inching Toward High Court

The possibility is growing that the Supreme Court will eventually be asked to settle broadcasters’ legal battle with Aereo and FilmOn X. As both broadcasters and the companies await a key decision due from a San Francisco appellate court, broadcasters are stepping up the pressure on the two services.