Report: Copyright office decides Aereo isn’t a cable company

The Copyright Office does not consider online video company Aereo to be a cable company, a decision that delivers another setback to the Internet service.

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In a letter this week, the Copyright Office told Aereo that it is not a cable company under copyright law, according to documents originally obtained by CNBC.

“Internet retransmission of broadcast television fall outside of the scope” of the section of copyright law that allows cable companies to air broadcast programming, the office said.

The company’s attempt to be defined as a cable company comes after its service — which involved cloud-based streaming and storage of broadcast content — was deemed to violate copyright law by the Supreme Court last month.

In its ruling, the court sided with broadcasters, which said the company violated copyright law by airing broadcast content without compensating broadcasters, as cable and satellite television companies are required to do.

Aereo had argued that it was only streaming and storing programming that is free-over-the-air with an antenna and that it had an antenna for every paying customer.

Since the ruling came down, Aereo has “paused” its service, and told a federal court that it is operating as a cable company and therefore entitled to a license to air broadcast content. Aereo had sought the licence from the Copyright Office.

But in its letter this week, the office told Aereo that defining itself as a cable company under copyright law would require Aereo to be regulated as a cable company by the Federal Communications Commission, in turn requiring them to negotiate with broadcasters over compensation.

The Copyright Office told Aereo that it would accept its filing on a provisional basis while a federal court weighs the claim.

Aereo declined to comment.