FCC Wants Ebay, Amazon To Crack Down On Kodi-Based Pirate TV Boxes

from the control,-not-copyright dept

For years now, tinkerers everywhere have built custom-made PCs that use the open-source Kodi platform. Highly flexible and customizable, this hardware can often work notably better than the locked-down TV hardware (especially traditional cable boxes) that are the norm. But the hardware can also be used to streamline access to copyright content. And in more recent years, outfits like Dragonbox or SetTV have taken things further by selling users tailor-made hardware that provides easy access to live copyrighted content.

Not too surprisingly, video producers and broadcasters haven’t much liked this. And in recent months, Amazon and Netflix have joined forces with Hollywood to try and sue many of these operations out of existence. Last week they got a little help from FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who fired off a letter to both Amazon and Ebay demanding they do more to combat the listing of these devices on their respective websites. O’Rielly was quick to acknowledge that the FCC’s authority over copyright is negligible, so he focused instead on these companies’ unauthorized use of the FCC logo:

“Disturbingly, some rogue set?top box manufacturers and distributors are exploiting the FCC’s trusted logo by fraudulently placing it on devices that have not been approved via the Commission’s equipment authorization process. Specifically, nine set-top box distributors were referred to the FCC in October for enabling the unlawful streaming of copyrighted material, seven of which displayed the FCC logo, although there was no record of such compliance. Many of these sellers are attempting to distribute their non-compliant products through online marketplaces such as yours. Although outside the jurisdiction of the Commission, it is equally troubling that many of these devices are being used to illegally stream copyrighted content, exacerbating the theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.

And that’s all well and good. Companies like DragonBox are dressing up piracy as a legitimate service while illegally using the FCC logo. Both Amazon and Ebay responded to O’Rielly noting they already have numerous systems in place to prohibit the sale of such devices, and were open to working with the FCC to police future sales.

That said, O’Rielly fails to mention that he’s historically supported policies at the FCC that make this whole problem worse than it needs to be.

Again, Kodi itself is perfectly legal. And even in the case of more ethically-dubious services, users are flocking to them because they find traditional video services and hardware to be locked down, inflexible, and expensive. Much of that has to do with obnoxious DRM that more often than not makes the viewing experience annoying as hell. And a lot of it has to do with the cable industry’s monopoly control over the cable box, which prevents the entire ecosystem from being as open and competitive as it should be.

And O’Rielly himself played a pretty major role in that.

Last year, O’Rielly helped the cable & broadcast industry crush a plan to bring much-needed openness and competition to the cable box. That plan, developed under the Wheeler FCC, would have let consumers access all cable TV content entirely via app, eliminating the traditional cable box and opening up competition on the streaming hardware front. But thanks to an absolutely massive disinformation effort by the cable industry, the plan was killed. Among other things, the cable sector tried to claim that added TV hardware competition would have stifled innovation, encouraged piracy, and even harmed minorities.

None of it was true, but it was repeated ad nauseum in countless editorials nationwide that failed to disclose the authors’ ties to the cable sector. The industry even managed to get the Copyright Office to join the fun by claiming that this added competition would somehow violate copyright.

It was another perfect example of how the definition of copyright is routinely abused, and these issues often have to do more with control than copyright. And while it’s great that O’Rielly decided to lend a hand here, it might be cool if he realized how his own anti-innovation policies at Trump’s FCC have helped make this problem of his immeasurably worse. If traditional video markets were cheaper, more open, customizable and flexible, these kinds of alternatives wouldn’t be nearly as popular in the first place because consumers would already be getting what they’re looking for.

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Companies: amazon, dragonbox, ebay, netflix

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Comments on “FCC Wants Ebay, Amazon To Crack Down On Kodi-Based Pirate TV Boxes”

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60 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

These boxes demonstrate the difference

The vast difference in what the cable companies could be charging people versus what they are charging is all easily demonstrated in these boxes. Yes, the 3rd parties aren’t paying the broadcasting fees and retransmitting fees. The majority of those fees are now internal accounting trick funny money, to begin with, so those costs can partially be ignored.

If the laws were not literally being written to support this insane systems existence, the world would have a thousand times the media availability and innovation. A certain percentage of people want to entertain us. Stop locking up content so you can artificially inflate its cost. You are not creating content, you are locking it up and pretending you made it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: These boxes demonstrate the difference

Yes, the 3rd parties aren’t paying the broadcasting fees and retransmitting fees.

Oh, yes. The Key Masnick Trick: just forget about COSTS!

Moon rocks are almost free, once you’re on the moon, right? All the equipment and rocket fuel only require "accounting tricks", right?

SHEESH. Typical Techdirt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: These boxes demonstrate the difference

Legal or not, one thing these boxes very clearly demonstrate is that an open source cable box can be made and sold with good margins for far less than the Cable Company is charging for their cable boxes.
These Kodi devices are all you need to enjoy all the services you can get from the more expensive and proprietary set-top boxes.
I’m Not arguing the economics of free or where these devices get their content – merely that as functional devices they are cheaper and easier to use than the expensive and mandatory rentals.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m wondering if the use of the logo is actually illegal, or simply exploiting a loophole in the way the law is written.

In NY, you can cut the VIN plate out of a wreck, replace the one on a road-worthy car with it, and register it under the new VIN. I know there’s a pile of home-built three wheel motorcycles out there with the correct, original VIN plate and a legal registration as a ’57 Belair or the like.

If you stick two FCC-approved, Logo’d parts together and sell them, can you legally put the FCC logo on the new, finished product? Or is it locked down, like a UL listing is?

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t see how they plan to shut down this phenomenon. No one even needs to buy any kind of “Pirate TV Box” because it’s very easy to make your own. And you don’t even need to “build” anything, as just about any old PC or laptop lying around the house will probably do, just slap on XBMC and a few other apps and start pirating.

Anonymous Coward says:

I thought the gop types were for smaller government and wanted the agencies to throttle back their regulation efforts … guess they were lying – again.

Weren’t they trying to scrap the fcc, the fcc was overstepping their authority or something like that … And now they want to use the fcc over stepping the fcc authority to drive a market in a particular direction. Isn’t this illegal?

Conflict of interest – what’s that?

Anonymous Coward says:

Here’s the real issue:

Although outside the jurisdiction of the Commission, it is equally troubling that many of these devices are being used to illegally stream copyrighted content, exacerbating the theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.

All about riding that copyright horse til it’s dead and then keep beating it.

The FCC doesn’t give a shiat about that FCC label. The **AAs are crying because people are tired of the shiat sandwich they keep getting shoved at them. Even if they toast the bread and add mayo and bacon, it’s still a shiat sandwich.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

” theft of billions of dollars in American innovation and creativity.”

Did you type that with a straight face?

Copyright infringement is not theft, but you knew that. Billions? Pinky finger to side of mouth. Any evidence in support of this claim?

This sandwich to which you refer, who is being made to eat it and who is forcing it to be eaten? What a horrible analogy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Amazon Fire TV Stick is a favored device for Kodi piracy

"Watch every movie, TV show, live sports, TV series, cartoons, adult with the click of a button instantly!"

Watch:

  • Unlimited Movies
  • Unlimited Movies in Theater
  • Unlimited Movies by Decades
  • Unlimited TV Shows
  • Unlimited Shows by Any Network
  • Unlimited Shows from HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz
  • Unlimited Kids Movies/TV Shows
  • Unlimited Pay Per View
  • Unlimited Sports
  • Unlimited Adult Content
  • Unlimited Music/Music Videos
  • Unlimited Fitness Videos
  • Unlimited Radio
  • Live TV like Bravo, AMC, FX, Discovery Spike, TBS
  • Live HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz
  • Live Sport Networks like ESPN, Fox Sports, beIn Sports, NBA TV and NFL Network

That’s when they can get themselves into serious trouble, when they start openly bragging about getting specific — and especially PAID — content for free.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Amazon Fire TV Stick is a favored device for Kodi piracy

I’m pretty sure that reseller will also be breaking the same laws. The point is that Amazon/ Kodi/ whoever aren’t breaking the law by making something that someone else can use for illegal activity, whereas people actively pushing the product for illegal purposes are culpable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Amazon Fire TV Stick is a favored device for Kodi piracy

"actively pushing the product for illegal purposes are culpable."

Or even passively/covertly pushing the product for illegal purposes. The maker of the TEC-9 "machine" pistol was sued into bankruptcy for its aggressive but carefully crafted advertising that hinted that it would make an ideal weapon for drug dealers ("as tough as your toughest customer") and mass shooters without explicitly saying it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Amazon Fire TV Stick is a favored device for Kodi piracy

The lawsuits were growing, as was the body count, since the TEC-9 had been used in numerous high profile murders and school shootings across the country. By the time the California Supreme Court ruled in its favor, the company had already been dissolved. Lawsuits from the more recent Columbine High School massacre thus did not by then have a gun manufacturer to sue.

It wasn’t really about winning or losing lawsuits, as this was a small company that obviously didn’t have the money to keep fighting the never-ending stream of court cases against it. A favorable Supreme Court decision in California meant nothing to its ongoing lawsuits in Colorado and elsewhere.

Even many in the established gun community were glad to see this “black sheep” company and its product line shut down permanently.

Sorry to go off-topic.

Shoot The Pirate says:

Gosh, it'd be horrible if FCC did like with CB radios!

"Crack Down" on ILLEGAL equipment. Preventing anarchy in communications is only the FCC’s job.

You pirates of course don’t like that your tools for theft will be taken away.

But you’d enjoy FCC "regulation" for "Net Neutrality", whatever that is. And anarchy, FCC doing nothing, simply cannot "promote the Arts", the creation of entertaining content that you wish to steal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gosh, it'd be horrible if FCC did like with CB radios!

“ILLEGAL equipment”

Please provide detail on this, as I am unaware of any such restrictions.

Do you consider a general purpose computer to be a tool for theft? Of what? How will it be taken away? Is there going to be another Jade Helm where the government invades a state and does … what did they do again? Will they put all owners of a personal pc in FEMA death camps?

Your wild accusations are cute, but rather silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with "free",

when that’s your own content that paid money and time to make being used by other persons. That’s the basis of the Copyright Clause stating a Right of persons in US Constitution.

SO as practical matter you should just SHUT UP about this "enforcement". It’s NOT "draconian", it’s reasonable, long precedented, and you are THIEVING PIRATES if want those illegal boxes to get the content.

After TWENTY YEARS, Techdirt hasn’t even an outline of workable alternative to the soundly-based body of FCC regulation, no matter how often you repeat the "better business model" mantra. (YOU are like a religious cult for pirates, Techdirt.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with "free",

So when the FCC regulates corporate treatment of the internet it’s horrible and needs to be repealed. When the FCC isn’t regulating corporation then is a “soundly-based body of FCC regulation”?

Please stop, you’re giving me whiplash.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with "free",

So? The people setting themselves up as gatekeepers and separating those who create content from those who consume it in order to try to make money are not doing us a favor. Disney has done more harm to this country in its existence than any amount of good can ever be attributed to it. These giant companies are not creating content, they are buying it from others and having the market changed to prevent others from upsetting their sacred cow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with "free",

no matter how often you repeat the "better business model" mantra.

There are many content creator all over the Internet, who have found the business models that allow them to give away their content, and get paid to create more content. However that also relies on using modern technology and approaches to production, so as to keep the whole operation slim.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with "free",

“Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with “free””

Good think that reality proves the lie pushed by morons like yourself that you can’t compete with free is totally wrong then, isn’t it? A great many successful businesses are competing with free as we speak. You’re just jealous because whoever pays you to act the idiot isn’t one of them.

“After TWENTY YEARS, Techdirt hasn’t even an outline of workable alternative to the soundly-based body of FCC regulation”

Because they’ve not said there need to be one. They have said there needs to be alternatives to the dated and broken business models that your overlords prefer, but since they both exist and are extremely successful even in the face of piracy, you have to be even more ignorant than your usual character to pretend they even need to be suggested at this point.

Oh, and funny thing – although you quoted the word “draconian”, it’s not used in the article. You are therefore, yet again, outright lying about what other people say in order to attack them. How can you be so utterly and openly dishonest and still believe you have some sort of right to accuse others of misdeeds?

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: tl;dr

Good think that reality proves the lie pushed by morons like yourself that you can’t compete with free is totally wrong then, isn’t it? A great many successful businesses are competing with free as we speak. You’re just jealous because whoever pays you to act the idiot isn’t one of them.

In fact, he’s almost certainly typing his drivel on a computer running an operating system that successfully competes with free operating systems.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re: tl;dr

It’s easy to compete with “free” when you are the legacy monopoly and you have been taking advantage of network effects to strangle competitors since before any libre operating systems ever came along.

That just goes to show that the “price tag” isn’t always the driving interest.

iTunes,Netflix,Amazon & HBO Now are all relevant counterexamples.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Business CANNOT survive NO income. CANNOT compete with "free",

“Business CANNOT survive NO income”

So you were not sleeping through econ 101 – interesting.
If a business can not survive, for whatever reason, then perhaps it should simply go out of business.

What happens in a free market when a business does not earn enough to continue operating?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: More uses for Kodi than streaming.

Complete piracy. How dare you rip your video and music library to your personal devices. All those lost sales. The MPAA and RIAA lost $1000s when you ripped your personally library to your personal media server. Think of the corn farmers and lost popcorn sales.

ECA (profile) says:

Innovation??

wow, what a word..
The tech is over 30 years old, complicated as hell, for no reason.. HAS been deciphered, to show how complicated it is..
90% of it is broadcast to Sat to be sent around to cable companies and Digital sat dishes..

When other countries send up Sats to cover a WHOLE nation, for national TV..insted of OLD broadcast towers to Cover the WHOLE nation..FOR FREE..

THEN to find out that DIGITAL ON INTERNET is…
Better quality
Can be STORED/SAVED(what happened to VIDEO RECORDING/TIME SHIFTING)
Watched when you want it..
SET quality that FITS both internet speed and your TV..
DRM KILLED, so it will work on any system..
PRE-LOAD video in background while doing/watching something else to watch later, AFTER a slow load internet..

The REAL problem with internet TV is the INTERNET CAPS.. 5-10 videos will Kill your cap, FAST..

Anonymous Coward says:

“It was another perfect example of how the definition of copyright is routinely abused, and these issues often have to do more with control than copyright.”

Copyright is entirely about control of creative content for a specified limit of time (DUH!) to enable the creator a reasonable profit from the work, before it’s contributed to the public domain. And right here it’s the author that’s abusing the definition of copyright to promote an agenda.

If you’re going to make a point make sure the finger you point doesn’t have three more pointing back at you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Have you not noticed that those who push for more and stronger copyright are rarely the actual content creators, but rather those who built a business by controlling the publication of the works of others. That is book publishers who controlled the printing presses, who in history were the one that pushed for the law establishing copyright known as the statute of Ann; the record labels who controlled access to record presses, and the Film studios who controlled the money, and later TV studios who controlled the means of production, and cable companies who control the means of distribution.

Jay says:

The people have spoken

The situation is rather simple. Media related corporate entities have been taking advantage of limited options for media delivery, riding the gravy train for a long long time. New technology has created new low cost alternatives. Consumers, in general, will and are taking advantage of that. We all know that there’s no major harm or crimes being committed, which is why it will continue. It’s ebb and flow, human nature, a natural cycle that repeats. At the end of the day, media holds little value as it pertains to our lives.

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