Your Guide to Court Decisions on Aereo and Cell-Phones

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A customer tries out the Apple iPhone 5 inside the Apple Fifth Avenue flagship store on the first morning it went on sale on September 21, 2012 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty)

Today the Supreme Court issued two major decisions—at the center of each case was the technology that has come to define our lives.

In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that police cannot search cell-phones without first obtaining a warrant. The case before the Court involved David Diley, a man who was pulled over for driving with expired tags in San Diego. The police found guns under the hood of his car and searched his cell-phone, which led them to believe he was involved in gang activity.

As the case went to the Court, we spoke with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. He argued that police need the ability to search phones without obtaining a warrant.

"It is technology that we have to deal with on a regular basis in today's world," Commissioner Ramsey told The Takeaway in April. "I realize that there is personal information in smartphones, but when we do make an arrest it is very, very important that we're able to have access to information that would lead us to a criminal conviction in a particular case."

In the end, the justices disagreed with Ramsey's interpretation. Peter Swire, a professor at Georgia Tech, served as President Bill Clinton's Chief Counselor for Privacy in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, weighs in on the ruling.

See Also: Siri Breaks Down Why Police Can't Search Cell-Phones

In a second decision issued today, the Court ruled against Internet start-up Aereo.

Aereo is a streaming television service that allows customers to watch broadcast television on mobile devices, tablets, and computers through a monthly subscription. In lieu of a physical antenna, subscribers can watch broadcast television through Aereo and record shows on a virtual DVR player.

But the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that Aereo violates the Copyright Act–the ruling is seen as a major victory for television's biggest broadcasters. The Walt Disney Corporation, Comcast, NBC, CBS and 21st Century Fox argued that Aereo was using their programming without authorization in violation of exclusive rights to the public performance of their work.

Bob Garfield, host of On The Media, weighs in on the Aereo ruling. 


Bob Garfield and Peter Swire


T.J. Raphael

Comments [2]

Michelangelo from Miami FL

@Robert Thomas- Technically, recording copyright content without permission for personal or public use is illegal. Every DVD reminds us of this. However, broadcasters tend to ignore home recording of shows since it's unlikely to turn into a business (like running a movie theater in one's home). A DVR recording from an antenna is similar to a VCR recording from basic cable.

When it's streaming from the cloud Aereo is distributing content, similarly to Netflix and Amazon, without permission from its originator. Aereo would probably attract less attention from the networks if they sold antennas and physical DVRs to homes everywhere.

You should package your sister's setup and sell it nationwide. I'll buy that for a dollar!

Sep. 26 2014 11:06 AM
Robert Thomas from Santa Clara

I understand that Aereo has been offering to rent an antenna to its customers and offer a DVR service that records and stores - at Aereo's site - captured over-the-air broadcasts to transmit (with capabilities similar to other DVRs) to their customers over the internet. Customers use it as though it were an OTA DVR located, along with a unique antenna, at a remote location that receives control commands over the internet FROM the customer and then streams the requested stored audio/video programming over the internet TO the customer.

The Justices have disallowed this.

My sister has a Tivo brand DVR in her home that is designed to collect and store - in her home - OTA broadcasts received at her rooftop antenna, for convenient playback. She subscribes to no cable or satellite service. It seems this has been deemed allowable.

If a service provided by some other company allowed my sister to receive television programming at her rooftop antenna and then send the content over the internet to a "cloud" storage space (assuming she had the upload bandwidth to practically allow this) for convenient playback (with something like DVR functionality), would the mere fact that the data was stored to and retrieved from a location remote from her home prohibit such a service? The location of the storage media would be the only difference between this scheme and her OTA DVR.

If such a service providing remote storage and retrieval is NOT prohibited, isn't the only difference between legality and illegality the location of the antenna? Is that the reasoning of the opinion?

Jun. 25 2014 04:38 PM

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