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Could Aereo Get Relief From Congress? Don’t Bet on It

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Aereo may have done little to shift the media landscape from the status quo, but some Capitol Hill lawmakers say the decision shows the need to update copyright and communications laws for the digital age.

In fact, Justice Stephen Breyer, writing the majority opinion, said that those who are worried that existing copyright law stifles technology “are of course free to seek action from Congress.”

That is much easier said than done.

House Republicans have already been reviewing the Copyright Act and the Communications Act with an eye toward an overhaul, but such a change may be years in the making. Even then, any significant changes are likely to set off a fierce lobbying battle.

As Gordon Smith, the CEO of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, told C-SPAN’s “The Communicators” on Wednesday, changing copyright law is “extremely difficult to do because it is essentially about picking winners and losers.”

While Smith was cheering the decision, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Assn., was criticizing it.

“We believe laws should be clear and favor innovation,” he said. “Innovators should not have to get ambiguous laws changed to give consumers new products and services.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said that the decision “reinforces the ongoing importance” of the committee’s review of copyright law.

“It is my hope that we can identify improvements to our copyright laws that can benefit both the content community and the technology community, as well as consumers, by maintaining strong protections for copyrighted works and strong incentives for further innovation,” he said.

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, said that the case “underscores the mounting need to modernize the 80-year-old Communications Act, which serves as an important, yet outdated, framework for the communications industry.”

 

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