NY Judge: For now, stealing OKAY!

US District Judge Alison Nathan went to great lengths to protect a company whose entire business model is based on outright theft. It’s not even a gray area – it’s just stealing, and the wrongness of it is hard to believe. Aereo

This is one of the things that drive me crazy: We are clearly seeing blue, but the wrong side of the issue believes that if it can say we’re seeing green long enough and loud enough, the truth of the matter will change.

Aereo is Barry Diller’s NYC based TV streaming startup that grabs broadcaster’s over the air (OTA) signals, and re-transmits them to users on their mobile devices for a fee. They are misappropriating copyrighted material and profiting from it with no compensation going back to those who have spent millions to produce and distribute the programming.

Aereo’s entire legal argument is built around their technology: That the way they gather and distribute somebody else’s content and signal provides them a pathway to “legally” violate copyright and public performance rules. Their argument isn’t whether they’re stealing – it’s how they’re stealing.

What’s amazing is that judge Nathan bit on this specious argument and by denying the injunction brought by property owners, allowed the company to continue stealing while the case proceeds – citing the possible “hardships” that Aereo might suffer should it be required to stop running out the back door with what it grabbed out of somebody else’s house. Unreal.

Judge Nathan hasn’t made a ruling on the larger issues in this case, but even by entertaining the possibility of Aereo’s legitimacy by denying the injunction, she is perpetuating the “free culture” movement probably without even knowing what it is. It’s the idea that everything should be free, damned the consequences to artists, production companies, legal distributors, advertisers, newsrooms and others who rely on revenues threatened by this business model.

Yes these interests want the fruit of their labors. They tilled the soil, planted the seeds, and took the risks – the idea that the harvest belongs to all is a complete crock… no matter the technical nature of the offender’s equipment or a judge’s seeming disregard for how products come to market.

Are broadcasters late to mobile streaming? Certainly. They’re to blame with their dithering over standards and their resistance to spending the money to leverage their built-in advantage as mobile providers. That still doesn’t justify robbery.

I realize that it would be “nice” to get everything for free, but there’s just no intellectually honest way to get around the fact that gathering up expensive programs off somebody else’s expensive distribution system and re-selling them is wrong.

Aereo needs to either pay up and become a vendor to broadcasters who don’t want to mess with mobile delivery, or get shut down – now – IMHO.