If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck. The most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the Copyright Act employed this “duck test” when determining that Aereo, an Internet content-streaming company, violated the Copyright Act by infringing on the copyrights of television broadcast networks. The Supreme Court ruled that Aereo's Internet streaming services resembled cable television transmissions too closely. Therefore, by streaming copyrighted programming to its subscribers without the cable compulsory license, Aereo violated the Transmit Clause of the 1976 Copyright Act. Subsequently, Aereo used this Supreme Court decision to obtain a compulsory license from the Copyright Office but was denied. Forced back into litigation, Aereo filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy This Issue Brief describes Aereo’s technology, the litigation that followed, and the related precedent, and concludes that the district court should have granted Aereo a Section 111 Statutory License in line with the Supreme Court’s “duck test.” It considers the implications of the Court’s preliminary injunction against Aereo’s “a la carte” TV technology, what this means for the future of similar technological innovation, and the effects on consumers and competition.
Pooja Patel, Aereo and Internet Television: A Call to Save the Dukes (A La Carte), 14 Duke Law & Technology Review 140-156 (2016)