The Demise of the Copyright Act in the Digital Realm: Re-Engineering Digital Delivery Models to Circumvent Copyright Liability After Aereo

Larkin, Megan

In the late 1950s, broadcasters waged war on a new, disruptive technology that threatened to change the television industry forever: cable. Broadcasters and their allies attempted to stifle cable by exercising their intellectual property rights, calling cable a “huge parasite in the marketplace” and attacking it for exploiting the works of others. Today, broadcasters face a new technology threatening to disrupt the television landscape: services disseminating television programming via the Internet. Just as they did in the 1950s, broadcasters have launched a legal battle against these services, characterizing them as exploitative—the modern parasites in the marketplace. Aereo, a service that captures over-the-air television and transmits it via the Internet to paying subscribers, is at the center of this dispute. Echoing the early cries that cable would “prove more revolutionary than the printing press," Aereo has been heralded as a victory for innovation and consumer choice in an otherwise archaic television industry, turning laptops and smartphones into television sets and leaving behind the days of a “giant rooftop antenna or awkward rabbit ears.” Aereo is able to provide consumers with an alternative to set-top boxes, expensive contracts and bundled plans, while keeping prices at a modest $8 per month by not paying licensing or retransmission fees to broadcasters.


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Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

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July 24, 2015