2014 CNBC Disruptor 50

US Copyright Office says Aereo not a cable company under terms of Copyright Act


US copyright officials have told Aereo that they do not consider it a "cable company" under the terms of copyright law, according to a letter obtained by CNBC.

Aereo, which lost a key Supreme Court ruling last month on the legitimacy of its TV-streaming service, had sought the same license available to other cable companies to rebroadcast TV programs over its service.

The company has paused operations while it figures out next steps. Users in various cities were able to pay a monthly fee to stream and record broadcast and certain other channels.

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The Supreme Court held that that amounted to a public performance of a copyrighted work.

Earlier this month, Aereo told a lower court handling its case that it would seek to be treated as a cable company and obtain the same compulsory license cable operators enjoy. That would give it the right, in exchange for set fees, to keep streaming content. But copyright authorities dismissed that argument.

"In the view of the Copyright Office, internet retransmissions of broadcast television fall outside the scope of the Section 111 license," the Copyright Office wrote in the letter dated July 16.

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The office added that it would not refuse Aereo's filings outright, but rather would accept them provisionally since the company's case is still before the courts.

A spokeswoman for Aereo declined to comment on the ruling, but noted that the Copyright Office provisionally accepted the company's application.

This story is developing. Please check back for further updates.

CNBC's parent company, NBCUniversal, was among the broadcasting and cable companies opposing Aereo on copyright claims before the Supreme Court.

—Additional reporting by CNBC's Everett Rosenfeld