Solicitor General wants say at Aereo SCOTUS case


DOJ / Department of JusticeGreat news: DOJ is pushing its support of TV networks in their Supreme Court case against Aereo a bit harder. Networks and broadcasters argue Aereo is illegally retransmitting local broadcaster signals and engaging in copyright infringement. U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who previously filed a friend of the court brief siding with broadcasters, is now asking to be allowed to argue his view endorsing TV networks stance during oral arguments in the case 4/22, noted The Wrap.

The court has yet to make a decision about the request. Cory Andrews, an attorney for the Washington Legal Foundation, which has filed its own friend of the court brief in the case, told TheWrap the move was not that unusual.

He said in about 50% of cases where the government files friend of the court briefs, it gets time to argue its view. Sometimes the government asks for the time. Other times the court asks the government to act.

In the brief, the solicitor general said Aereo is violating copyright law and has to obtain retransmission consent: “The Copyright Act’s broad, technology-neutral definitions make clear that respondent’s system of individualize digital transmissions constitutes a ‘device or process” for communicating the performances embodied in television broadcast to the public.”

It suggested Aereo’s argument that it isn’t engaged in retransmission is not a “natural reading” of  telecommunication laws because it isn’t using a single antenna “would afford talismanic significance to precisely the sort of technological minutiae that Congress intended to treat as irrelevant in crafting telecommunications laws. Respondent identifies no reason why Congress would have wanted to countenance such a loophole.”

See the full Wrap story here.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is great news for broadcasters and networks involved in the case and across the country. While Verilli would have likely been allowed to argue the case without specifically asking, his specific request to do so carries a lot of punch.