- David Lat, Above the Law
After suffering two judicial setbacks already, most recently in the D.C. Circuit’s Verizon v. FCC decision this past January, the Federal Communications Commission is once again proposing to adopt new net neutrality regulations. The proposed regulations would bar internet service providers from blocking access to any lawful website or from engaging in commercially unreasonable practices. A key aspect of the FCC’s proposal drawing considerable attention concerns whether the FCC should bar so-called paid prioritization of internet traffic.
In this Teleforum, three experts with divergent views addressed whether there is any need for the FCC to adopt any new neutrality regulations and, if so, whether the agency possesses the legal authority to do so. Two principal legal theories that may support FCC action were discussed – using the FCC’s existing authority under Section 706 of the Communications Act or classifying internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Act. The panelists also discussed the most important question of all: whether and how net neutrality regulation might affect consumer welfare.
On June 25, 2014, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Aereo. This case involves the question of whether, under sections 101 and 106 of the Copyright Act, a company “publicly performs” a copyrighted television program--a privilege normally reserved to the copyright holder--when it retransmits a broadcast of that program to thousands of paid subscribers over the Internet.
In an opinion delivered by Justice Breyer, the Court held by a vote of 6-3 that Aereo is not simply an “equipment supplier” and that it performs petitioners’ works publicly within the meaning of the Transmit Clause. Chief Justice Roberts as well as Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined the opinion of the Court. Justice Scalia authored a dissenting opinion which Justices Thomas and Alito joined. The decision of the Second Circuit was reversed.
To discuss the case, we have Mark Schultz, who is an Associate Professor of Law at the Southern Illinois University School of Law.
In a June 25, 2014, decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in ABC v. Aereo that Aereo publicly performs copyrighted works, in violation of the Copyright Act’s Transmit Clause, when its technology allows its paid subscribers to watch television programs over the Internet in near real-time as the programs are broadcast over the air. Has the decision increased certainty and predictability in the world of copyright, or did the Court’s reasoning inject more uncertainty? Are there implications in the decision for what is anticipated to be a legislative effort to change existing copyright law?