This past summer, the United States Supreme Court ruled that Aereo's system for digitizing over-the-air broadcasts infringed the rights of copyright holders even though Aereo had carefully designed its system around previous court rulings. How does copyright work in an era where most copyrighted material is ethereal and why did the Supreme Court come to this conclusion? I will review the history of copyright in the United States and discuss how Congress and the courts have dealt with the shift from paper and physical media to electronic bits and bytes over the past decade. We will then examine the Aero ruling to see how the Court applied previous rulings to this new technology to deal a death blow to Aereo.
David Abrams is a Visiting Lecturer on Engineering Sciences at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
After graduating from M.I.T. with degrees in Electrical Engineering, David designed analog and digital electronic instrumentation used in medicine, education and chemical analysis. In 1986, he co-founded Galactic Industries Corp., a software company which brought analytical data processing to Personal Computers through efficient programming. In 2001, David negotiated the sale of Galactic to a division of Thermo Electron and, a short time later, left Thermo Galactic to enter Harvard Law School. After law school, he initially worked as an Intellectual Property Associate at WilmerHale, then clerked in Federal District Court for The Honorable Judge Rya Zobel. David then helped establish Harvard Law School’s first-year Problem Solving Workshop while a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society investigating the clash between copyright and the Internet. He currently teaches Problem Solving and Internet Law at Suffolk Law School and introductory circuit design (ES52) at Harvard University.