The Supreme Court heard arguments today in a very complex case concerning the technical details of television broadcast rights. So it might concerning that the Justice might not totally understand how TV works.
The nation's broadcast networks went to court to stop Aereo, a startup company that allows users to access over-the-air television shows on computers and mobile devices for $8 a month. The networks argue that Aereo's service is infringing on broadcaster's copyright, and the latter saying that it doesn't, because the programs are already free to anyone with an antenna. It's a somewhat complicated case that will turn on the Justices' rather precise definitions of key technical terms.
This might be something they are not be fully equipped to do, based on some of the questioning we saw today. Specifically from Justice Antonin Scalia, who apparently did not know difference between HBO and regular old ABC.
Scalia apparently thought HBO is free over the airwaves. pic.twitter.com/db1YQSVBiO— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) April 22, 2014
According to the court transcript, Scalia made the faux pas when asking Aereo's lawyer David Frederick whether the company could pick up non-local signals. Scalia asked, "I mean, you could take HBO right?," before Frederick explained that "HBO is not done over the airwaves." The distinction between over-the-air broadcast networks (which Aereo transmits) and the most popular premium cable channel (which they do not) is pretty key to their whole argument.
Justice Sotomayor (and maybe the lawyers) also seemed to lack certain information going into the case, per the transcript:
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: So Roku is -- Roku is paying a license for no reason.
MR. CLEMENT: I'm sorry?
JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Roku is paying a license for no reason? They sold me a piece of equipment.
MR. CLEMENT: I don't know all the details of that particular piece of equipment.
Or maybe she's just showing off some tech savvy by dropping that she has a Roku.