ArtsWatch: Supreme Court Hears Aereo Oral Arguments

One hour of smart questions from the bench gives no clue about the outcome of Broadcasters v. Aereo
April 28, 2014 -- 11:20 am PDT
By Philip Merrill /

In recent news ...

Supreme Court Considers Aereo's Fate
On April 22 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments appealing a lower court ruling that has kept Internet TV service Aereo operating while broadcasters' lawsuit against them continues. The justices were keenly aware that they have a wide range of options to choose from and expressed their desire to avoid making an overly broad ruling that could have unintended negative consequences such as overly narrowing fair use cloud storage. Justice John Roberts focused on whether Aereo's technology only exists to circumvent copyright law. Justice Sonia Sotomayor supplied the funniest hypothetical when she referred to the nonexistent service "iDrop in the cloud." Arguing on behalf of broadcasters, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm L. Stewart strongly relied on the public performance right and copyright holders' ownership interests. The Recording Academy joined other leading copyright advocates in submitting friends-of-the-court briefs last month. In a new blog "NAB Broadcasting Mixed Signals Over Aereo," The Academy's Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer Daryl P. Friedman notes the inconsistency of radio broadcasters not paying performance royalties while television broadcasters are insisting that Aereo must. "How can the [National Association of Broadcasters] take two such drastically differing positions on the same principle?" Friedman asks. A ruling is expected in June and the justices were clear that this could have momentous consequences for content on the Internet.

FCC's New Net Neutrality Plan Gets Criticism
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler began circulating his new proposal to protect the open Internet on April 24 within the agency. News reports followed by intense criticism from consumer advocacy groups pressured him to defend his new approach on the official FCC blog. Observers have waited since the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck down the FCC's previous rules in January, curious what Wheeler's approach would say about him and his agency's potential to protect the open Internet and Net neutrality. The heart of the news that caused alarm was reports that operators would be able to charge a fee to provide online services with guaranteed high-speed delivery of their traffic. As Wheeler explained on his blog, his agency's ability to enforce open Internet rules will rely on staying within limits where the FCC has regulatory authority consistent with "the roadmap established by the court." He said the three main requirements will be transparent disclosure of network management policies, no blocking of legal content and a prohibition on commercially unreasonable behavior such as anticompetitive abuses. Wheeler's goal is to "have enforceable rules by the end of the year." Net neutrality proponents will likely keep the pressure on both the FCC and Internet service providers as the draft proposal moves forward.

iTunes, Vevo Release Impressive Numbers
On April 23 Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that iTunes presently boasts approximately 800 million user accounts. "This is a staggering number," Cook said. That total is up from 575 million last June. Separately, on April 23, Vevo CEO Rio Caraeff described a 46 percent increase in monthly music videos viewed compared to a year earlier. The totals were nearly 1 billion videos viewed in December in the U.S. and 5 billion abroad, with smartphone viewing accounting for 65 percent of viewership. "On a global stage, it's really all about mobile," said Caraeff.

Broadway Composers Put Sheet Music Pirates On Notice
Multi-GRAMMY-winning composer Stephen Schwartz spoke out against sheet music piracy to the Associated Press at a Dramatists Guild of America antipiracy awareness event on April 21. Joining with fellow Broadway musical composers who plan to send email notices to infringers, Schwartz said, "I just went to the first of the Web sites that I'm going to be emailing, and I typed my name in to see how many individual pieces of sheet music that were available for free of mine — over 11,000."

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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