Wednesday, June 25, 2014

SCOTUS Rules Big!

Cameras aren't allowed in the Supreme Court. Recording devices are limited to audio. A courtroom sketcher will display the reactions of those in the courtroom. 

Two major decision came from the U.S. Supreme Court. They managed to not only deal a blow to law enforcement agencies but also start up companies that advocate advancements in the digital age.

First things first, have you ever posted anything incriminating on your phone?

Have you ever posted something that you know will get you in trouble?

Think about that young woman who posted on the social networks and on her phone. She was the one who robbed a bank. Hannah Sabata got 20 years in the iron college for that incident. Before the Court decision, the boys in blue would have checked her phone for incriminating evidence. No more.

The law must now get a warrant to look into a person's phone. Today the landmark decision given by the Court unanimously held that search and seizure of digital contents of a cell phone during an arrest is unconstitutional.

The case arose from a split among state and federal courts over the cell phone search incident to arrest (SITA) doctrine. The Fourth, Fifth, and Seventh Circuits have ruled that officers can search cell phones to arrest under various standards. That rule has been followed by the Supreme Courts of Georgia, Massachusetts, and California. Other courts in the First Circuit and the Supreme Courts of Florida and Ohio disagreed.

Now if you want to see your local news on the phone or through the computer. It may be even harder to stream the service if you're not licensed by the company. The Court ruled that online streaming service Aereo violated copyright when they were charging fees to stream local programs over their programming. This means that any start up business that wants to stream programming that comes off the free broadcast will be subject to infringement and shut down.

Broadcasters argued that Aereo was a threat both to their business model, by undermining the cable retransmission fees and the size of their audience.

Because the fees cable companies pay for broadcast content can comprise up to 10% of a broadcaster's revenue, broadcasters object to Aereo's re-distribution of this content without paying any fees. Broadcasters have also identified Aereo as part of the cord-cutting trend among television audiences that poses a threat to broadcasters' advertising revenue.

Aereo was sued for copyright infringement by a consortium of major broadcasters, including CBS Corporation's CBS, Comcast's NBC, Disney's ABC and 21st Century Fox's Fox.

The broadcasters argued that Aereo infringed their copyrighted material because Aereo's streams constituted public performances. They sought a preliminary injunction against the company. On July 11, Federal Judge Alison Nathan denied this injunction, citing as precedent the 2008 Cablevision case, which established the legality of cloud-based streaming and DVR services.

In response to the decision, Aereo Founder and CEO Chet Kanojia said “Today’s decision shows that when you are on the right side of the law, you can stand up, fight the Goliath and win.”

In a subsequent interview with CNET, Kanojia asserted, “With one step, we changed the entire TV industry. The television industry and its evolution are now starting towards the Internet and that was stopped until Aereo came along...And I think as consumers start migrating to the Internet, new programming and new content are going to come in.

The Court decided in favor of the broadcasters on June 25 in a 6-3 decision and remanded the case with Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito dissenting. The Court's decision describes Aereo as not being "simply an equipment provider," with an "overwhelming likeness to cable companies" that "performs petitioners' works 'publicly.'" Further, the Court adds that its decision should not discourage the emergence or use of different kinds of technologies, a conclusion that will remain to be seen.

Research was obtained through the SCOTUS Blog and Wikipedia to conclude the summary of this decision.

These decisions are monumental. The Court's rulings will affect the digital age. The Roberts Court is pretty damn conservative. The swing is Anthony Kennedy and he's tolled the line toward libertarian. These decisions are pretty much setbacks to law enforcement and digital technology.


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