Amazing story of technological innovation designed to create a legally viable way to stream TV over the Internet:
Here’s the gist of it:
Rebroadcasting someone’s copyrighted content over the Internet is illegal. That amounts to a “public performance” of the content. So you can’t simply hook up your over-the-air antenna to the Internet and send CBS to Europe.
Yet it’s legal to record copyrighted content on your home VCR/DVR – as long as it’s not used for a public performance. As long as you don’t invite your friends, sell tickets, and show it at your house, you can record any TV show or movie and watch it later.
In a famous copyright law case, Cartoon Network vs. CSC Holdings (known as the Cablevision case), Cablevision (a division of CSC Holdings), won the right to host subscribers’ DVR’s in the cloud. This was big – it gave companies the right to send copyrighted content over the Internet, as long as it was only for individual use, not for a “public performance.”
So what Barry Diller is doing with his new startup Aereo is this: he created a massive data center with thousands of TV antennas, each connected to a DVR. You are assigned one of these antennas and a hard disk, and can access the content on it whenever you want, from wherever you are. No public performance. No copyright violation.
So instead of the simple, technologically simple solution (rebroadcast the publicly available channels over the Internet), we have this amazing technological achievement of thousands of tiny antennae, each assigned to an individual user, recording and rebroadcasting television over the Internet.
Here’s a picture of an individual antenna and of the array of antennae: