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The Supreme Court Doesn't Understand How TV Works

"In the end, the Supreme Court's ideal frame of reference was the phonograph," Brian Fung writes for the Washington Post.

"In struggling to find the right conceptual analogy for the two-year-old start-up Aereo, our nation's top judicial officials also considered the difference between a car dealership and a valet parking service. But the fact that their first instinct was to turn to an invention created 137 years ago speaks gigabytes for how well the justices approach the day's most important technology cases.

"It's easy to poke fun at the bench. Justice Sonia Sotomayor kept referring to cloud services alternately as 'the Dropbox,' 'the iDrop,' and 'the iCloud.' Chief Justice John Roberts apparently struggled to understand that Aereo keeps separate, individual copies of TV shows that its customers record themselves, not one master copy that all of its subscribers have access to. Justice Stephen Breyer said he was concerned about a cloud company storing 'vast amounts of music' online that then gets streamed to a million people at a time - seemingly unaware of the existence of services like Spotify or Google Play. And Justice Antonin Scalia momentarily forgot that HBO doesn't travel over the airwaves like broadcast TV.

"This is hardly the first time the court has seemed to betray a poor grasp of technology. Earlier this year, Justice Anthony Kennedy flatly assumed that many computer programs could be written by a college kid in a coffee shop over a single weekend. No one corrected him. And it's been only four years since Scalia asked the room whether you could print out text messages."

Mashable was moved to rank the justices by their tech savvy - which moved Sarah Jeong to rip Mashable for going too soft on the Court.

New York magazine was moved to write 8 Times The Supreme Court Was Baffled By Technology.

It's not funny.

The American Prospect writes that the future of television is at stake in the Aereo case.

Mashable says the case could affect all Internet storage.

And yet:

"If you're comfortable with the Supreme Court resolving disputes over technology, the transcript of Tuesday's oral arguments in ABC vs. Aereo should change your mind," Jon Healey writes for the Los Angeles Times.

For example, at one point Justice Stephen G. Breyer said that unlike a rooftop TV antenna, the tiny antennas that Aereo sets up in a city could "pick up every television signal in the world and send it . . . into a person's computer." That's physically impossible, not just because antennas aren't sensitive enough to detect signals from outside the local market but because the world isn't, you know, flat. "And that sounds so much like what a [cable] TV system does or what a satellite system does," Breyer continued, "that it looks as if somehow you are escaping a constraint that's imposed upon them. That's what disturbs everyone [on the court]."

"Everyone outside the court should be disturbed by a question like that."

The New York Times notes that "The arguments Tuesday were the culmination of two years of legal sparring between the networks and Aereo, over an issue television executives and analysts say will have far-reaching implications for the industry.

"At risk are the billions of dollars broadcasters receive from cable and satellite companies in the form of retransmission fees, the money paid to networks and local stations for the right to retransmit their programming. The networks have said this revenue is so vital that they would consider removing their signals from the airwaves if the court ruled for Aereo."

The Times's David Carr writes that "At Stake In The Aereo Case Is How We Watch TV.

And that's being decided by judges who don't know that HBO is a subscriber service. Good lord.


* TV-Over-Internet Coming To Chicago. (Item 4)

* Aereo Stuck At The Gate? (Item 1)

* Window To A World. (Last item)


Comments welcome.


Posted on April 24, 2014

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