The US Supreme Court is currently forming an opinion about the internet "broadcasting" company Aereo.
If you're not familiar with Aereo, here's how it works. Hop on their website, tell them where you live, and they will set up an antenna in your name, and connect the antenna to an internet-enabled DVR so you can watch & record the (free) television signal (from "your" antenna) from anywhere in the country.
For more information: https://aereo.com/
Sounds perfectly legal, right?
Well, pretty much every broadcaster under the sun is suing them (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, to name a few), and the case has finally made its way to the Supreme Court.
Here's the part that bugs me -- the logic. How hard is this decision? Consider the following scenarios:
(1) Connect an antenna to your television, so you can watch the video being received by the antenna.
(2) Install a buffering system (say, a DVR) between the antenna and the television, so you can record the live signal from the antenna and watch it on your television whenever you like.
(3) Replace the television with a computer, using the proper hardware and software to interpret the video signal.
(4) Use an authentication system on the DVR so the user of the computer is the only user who can access the media on the DVR.
(5) Move the computer to your neighbor's house (with permission, of course).
(6) Install a much longer cable and reconnect the computer to the DVR.
(7) Install a second antenna and another DVR at the first house, install a second computer at the house across the street — connected by another lengthy cable. Ensure that each computer (at the neighbor's house, and house across the street) has its own username & password to only one DVR in the first house.
(8) Replace the lengthy cables with an internet connection. Connect the computers and the DVRs to the internet, and ensure that the single-user authentication system still functions -- so each computer can access each DVR as if they were still connected by their respective direct cables.
(9) Replace the array of DVRs with a new "Super DVR" which has support for multiple (separate) accounts and connects over the internet rather than using a direct cable. With their own authentication on this new internet-enabled DVR, each user can only access their own media as if they were connected by those lengthy cables.
(10) Now, move those computers across the country, and reconnect them to the big DVR using a web interface.
The very first scenario is perfectly legal. If you agree with the broadcasters that the final scenario is illegal, at which of those steps was the final scenario rendered illegal? With this hypothetical analogy, all we did was replace each piece in the connection with another (more modern) piece, one-by-one: The television is now a computer, the cable is the internet, each individual DVR has been reduced to a single account on a shared DVR, and the only item that remains for each user is that they still have their own antenna. The logistical difference is that the customer is no longer in the same house as the antenna.
If the final scenario is illegal, why isn't the first one?