US Copyright Office Sides With Cable Companies Against FCC’s Set Top Rules

An anonymous reader writes: The United States Copyright Office has sided with cable companies in their fight against a Federal Communications Commission plan to boost competition in the TV set-top box market. The FCC proposal would force pay-TV providers to make channels and on-demand content available to third parties, who could then build their own devices and apps that could replace rented set-top boxes. Comcast and other cable companies complain that this will open the door to copyright violations, and US Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante agrees with them. The Copyright Office provided advice to the FCC at the FCC’s request, and Pallante yesterday detailed the concerns her office raised in a letter to members of Congress who asked her to weigh in. “In its most basic form, the rule contemplated by the FCC would seem to take a valuable good — bundled video programming created through private effort and agreement under the protections of the Copyright Act — and deliver it to third parties who are not in privity with the copyright owners, but who may nevertheless exploit the content for profit,” Pallante wrote. “Under the Proposed Rule, this would be accomplished without compensation to the creators or licensees of the copyrighted programming, and without requiring the third party to adhere to agreed-upon license terms.” There are already “third-party set-top box devices, mainly produced overseas, that are used to view pirated content delivered over the Internet,” and the FCC’s plan could expand the market to include devices “designed to exploit the more readily available [cable TV] programming streams without adhering to the prescribed security measures,” Pallante wrote. Cable companies are willing to pledge industry-wide commitment, but have expressed no desires of leaving control over the UI.


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