The Switchboard: Aereo is itching for a Supreme Court fight

December 13, 2013

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

Aereo to TV companies: You want a Supreme Court fight? No problem. "When Aereo launched its TV-over-Internet business based on tiny antennas, it drew quick legal attack from broadcasters, who have said Aereo's scheme breaks copyright laws," Ars Technica reports. "But Aereo has won every key legal battle since, beating the TV companies in federal courts in New York and Boston as well as at a key appeals court—twice. Aereo has relied on the landmark 2008 Cablevision case, which ruled that use of a remote-DVR is legal and doesn't constitute a 'public performance' under copyright law."

FCC moves to allow in-flight cellphone use. "The Federal Communications Commission voted along party lines on Thursday to consider a proposal to allow cellphone use on flights despite a major public backlash to the plan," according to The Hill. "Lawmakers, passengers and the union for flight attendants have all slammed the move, saying people shouldn't be forced to listen to obnoxious phone conversations in a tight space. But FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the existing ban on in-flight cellphone use, which is based on interference concerns, 'outdated.'"

This White House petition on Internet privacy now requires a response. "Over 100,000 people have signed onto a WethePeople petition asking President Obama to support changes in a 27-year-old privacy law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)," our own Brian Fung reports. "The law, which was written in 1986, and long before Gmail and Facebook, allows the seizing of e-mail and other digital communications without a warrant. Critics say it doesn't provide enough privacy protections for online communications."

Patent warfare: Trolls vs. inventors. "Hairy green monsters wield clubs and sneer menacingly in advertisements across Hill publications and websites — part of a campaign to curb litigious firms known as patent trolls," Politico writes. "Opponents paint a different picture: that of the tinkering inventor, a modern-day Thomas Edison whose innovative efforts could be quashed by patent legislation that goes too far.
The dueling images add a visceral edge to what is normally a dry and legalistic intellectual property issue."

AOL Tightens CrunchBase’s Licensing to Block Competitors. "AOL is legally locking down its crowdsourced CrunchBase database of tech companies, in response to a commercial iPhone app that used the database to compete with AOL," Wired reports. "The change, announced today, comes on the heels of a licensing flap first reported by WIRED, in which AOL demanded that a three-person company called Pro Populi withdraw its People+ iOS app, which used the CrunchBase dataset. AOL backed down on its legal attack on Prop Populi after the Electronic Frontier Foundation intervened."

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Andrea Peterson · December 12, 2013