The US Copyright Office says Aereo, the beleaguered streaming TV service, does not qualify for a compulsory license that would allow it to operate as a cable company.
Aereo allowed users to access antennas online to stream broadcast television. The Supreme Court last month ruled Aereo to be in violation of copyright law, likening it to a cable company, leading Aereo to seek the license as a means of survival.
Aereo said last week that since the Supreme Court basically declared it a cable system, that meant it was entitled to a compulsory license, which allows cable systems to transmit copyrighted material for a fee through the Copyright Office. The compulsory copyright is an umbrella that allows pay-TV distributors to avoid having to get permission from individual copyright holders for every piece of content they telecast.
A letter from the copyright office to Aereo said that the Supreme Court’s decision did not include any implications that would allow Internet-based companies like Aereo to be regulated by the FCC as a cable company.
The office has accepted, and will not process, Aereo’s filings on a provisional basis while the legal system considers the issue. “The Office may subsequently determine that it is appropriate to take definitive action on Aereo’s filings, which could include rejection of the statements,’’ the letter reads.
The office also notes that the FCC has taken the issue of whether web-based services should be eligible for this sort of license, but has not taken action. An FCC rules change would also have an effect on Aereo’s attempts to get a license.
Aereo is based in New York but has kept a larger presence in Boston.