28 July 2014

Public performance when content is provided to individual viewers

The US Supreme Court on 25-6-2014 held that in enabling subscribers to view broadcast of copyrighted content, using individual antennae, both elements of ’performance’ and ‘public’ were satisfied and such activity amounted to infringement.  In the instant case (American Broadcasting Companies v. AEREO), the defendant transmitted content by means of individual antenna to subscribers which enabled them to view programmes of their choice almost contemporaneously.

The court did not find force in the arguments that there was only supply of equipment enabling performance and hence the service provider was not liable or since only one individual at a time viewed the content, there was no public performance. The court reasoned that the changes in statute were brought in 1976 to cover cable TV like operations and emphasised that the relationship between the set of people for whom a work is performed and the underlying work is determinative.In the instant case, people who viewed the content were not owners and the defendant did not have license to perform the works.


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