Aereo’s Future as Cable-Like Service on Hold by Copyright Office

Aereo Inc.’s bid for a compulsory license to stream television online was met with skepticism by the U.S. Copyright Office, which said the startup falls outside the scope of a law meant for cable companies.

The agency refrained from rejecting Aereo’s filings related to the license, instead provisionally accepting them, according to a letter to the company dated yesterday. While Aereo’s service is outside the scope of the license, the office will hold off on taking action on the application until the startup’s status is clarified by courts and regulators, it said.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Aereo violated copyrights by transmitting live and recorded broadcast programming from an antenna via the Internet, the startup said it believes it can survive by operating like a cable-TV provider. The Copyright Office’s stance puts the spotlight back on the courts and regulators -- specifically the Federal Communications Commission -- to rule on whether the service can stay alive.

“Aereo should be aware that, depending upon further regulatory or judicial development, and/or based upon the Office’s own further review of the issue, the Office may subsequently determine that it is appropriate to take definitive action on Aereo’s filings,” Jacqueline Charlesworth, general counsel and associate register of copyrights, wrote in the letter.

The Copyright Office is also seeking public comment on Internet-TV transmissions.