Aereo has created an advocacy site to sway consumer opinion in its favor as it argues to the Supreme Court that its service is legal. The site, dubbed “Protect My Antenna,” argues that any ruling against its service would threaten consumers’ rights to access broadcast signals.
The company’s service allows its customers to pay a small monthly fee to record television shows and watch them on a variety of devices. It does so with antennas that capture free over-the-air signals — a system television providers have an obvious problem with because it cuts them out.
So the company has headed to the Supreme Court, where it will argue that its service falls within existing rules, while television providers argue that it should disappear without a trace. Aereo chairman Barry Diller has said that if the company loses in this case it will be “finished,” which will give the television providers what they want as the company fades into nothingness.
Aereo’s argument can be summarized in a small snippet from the Protect My Antenna site:
The broadcasters are asking the Court to deny consumers the ability to use the cloud to access a more modern-day television antenna and DVR in order to protect what they believe are their most lucrative business models.
The Copyright Act provides no justification to curtail those rights simply because the consumer is using modern, cloud-based equipment. If the broadcasters succeed, the consequences to American consumers and the cloud industry are chilling.
Will a website change Aereo’s fortune? It’s doubtful. But if Comcast thinks it can convince consumers that its merger with Time Warner Cable won’t undermine the foundation of the Internet with a blog post, maybe Aereo can convince them it deserves to thrive with a site.
Perhaps it should start with Farhad Manjoo, who wrote in 2012 that Aereo is the world’s most ridiculous startup:
Whatever happens, it’s hard to see the scenario where Aereo survives. At best, its legal battle will create a new regime in TV, one in which networks lose some of the money that cable providers offer them for “retransmission.” Such fees are a racket; your cable bill keeps creeping up in part because over-the-air networks keep demanding more money to send their purportedly free shows over your line. If Aereo’s legal case ends up slashing those fees, that would be a good outcome.
But as a standalone service, Aereo makes no sense. Indeed, anyone who truly wishes for more common sense in the media business should root for Aereo’s failure, not its victory. Let’s never forget that this is a firm that will charge people a sky-high price for shows that we can all get for free. By perpetuating the idea that free television should be a service that we pay for—that merely rebroadcasting free television should incur some kind of convenience fee for customers—Aereo is cementing an indefensible policy.
Aereo might need a better website.