The Supremes Mess Things Up Yet Again

The U.S. Supreme Court has gotten some decisions right in recent weeks, such as ruling that warrantless cell phone searches are unconstitutional and ruling that abortion protest “buffer zones” on public streets and sidewalks are also unconstitutional. But in ruling that Aereo’s providing customers with access to view broadcast TV on the Internet violated copyright law and therefore like cable providers they must pay broadcasters a fee, the high court has created many more problems and distortions now. For instance, this ruling will no doubt cause big problems for Internet cloud services and for everyday ISPs as well. The 6 Supremes voting “nay” on Aereo said that the process looks and seems like the way cable TV provides broadcast TV shows to customers, and therefore it is the same thing. Not so, say dissenters Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. You see, they actually read the copyright law, as Mike Masnick pointed out.  (Not that copyright law should matter in a free society, as that is a result of legislation, not law. Therefore it is invalid. But I digress.)

Well, when Congress wrote its laws regarding broadcasting over the airwaves, that really became yet another usurpation, and a new overall monopoly in which Washington’s overlords get to decide who may and who may not broadcast their shows and their views on the “public” airwaves. So, while nobody should “own” the airwaves, we have a Congress and an FCC which since then “own” the airwaves. But in my view, those who get into the broadcasting business should really know what they are dealing with. If some content is traveling freely “in the air,” it is not like it is traveling through a private, physical cable. It is indeed “public,” and anyone and everyone who wants at it should do so in whatever way they wish, without paying some extortion fee to the government or to some other group. If you don’t like that then perhaps broadcasting your shows over the airwaves is not for you. (For some people the ability to broadcast their stuff over the airwaves can be free advertising for them.)

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the rebroadcasters such as Aereo have a right to claim that they created and produced specific programs that customers might see — that would be fraud, a totally different issue.

Am I all wet on this?


11:59 am on June 26, 2014