Commentary on the Cutting-Edge

Michael Risch

When you’re studying intellectual property law, one of today’s most dynamic and rapidly changing fields of legal practice, you want to learn from leading experts in the field. At Villanova Law, you can take classes taught by renowned professors such as Michael Risch, a noted IP scholar who has written extensively on the topics of patents, trade secrets and information access. Two of his articles have been cited by the Supreme Court. And like many of our professors, he is regularly called on by the media to comment on front-page issues.

Risch most recently appeared on Wall Street Journal Live and was quoted by Variety and CBS 3 about the U.S. Supreme Court’s hearing of American Broadcasting Companies Inc. v. Aereo Inc., a copyright case that could set an important precedent for how broadcast television is accessed. Since 2012, Aereo has given consumers a new way to watch or record broadcast television. For $8 to $12 per month, it claims to assign each subscriber an individual, remote antenna to pick up a signal so they can watch a program over the Internet or record a program to their remote DVR and watch it later. The technology cuts out cable companies, depriving broadcasters of fees that they are paid by the cable industry in return for the right to transmit content to their subscribers.

ABC, CBS, NBC and other network giants are suing the 2-year-old startup for copyright infringement—arguing that, under the 1976 Copyright Act, only the owner of copyrighted content has the right to air a "public performance" of the content in question. Aereo, meanwhile, argues that the company is not airing “public performances.” By assigning each subscriber with a personal antenna, the company says it is enabling “many private performances.”

Speaking to Wall Street Journal Live, Risch said, “It is a hard issue because this is something that hasn’t been addressed before. New technology brought this up.” He continued, saying that that the Supreme Court’s decision will likely address “the very specific statutory interpretation question—which is, when you have multiple antennas, is that the same as having a single antenna?”  

Click here to learn more about Professor Risch and Villanova Law’s outstanding faculty.