Congress Has No Idea How The FCC's Cable Box Reform Plan Works, Conyers, Goodlatte Compare Effort To 'Popcorn Time'
from the not-very-good-at-my-job dept
As such, the cable industry has been having a monumental hissy fit. This has ranged from threatening lawsuits to publishing an absolute ocean of misleading editorials in news outets nationwide, claiming the FCC's plan would destroy consumer privacy, increase piracy, hurt programming diversity, and make little children cry.
Not too surprisingly, the cable and entertainment industry has now gotten some members of Congress to contribute to the hysteria. Note that the FCC's proposal makes it abundantly clear that under the proposal, a cable provider can "determine the content protection systems it deems sufficient to prevent theft and misuse, and will not impede the introduction of new content protection systems." Yet in a letter sent to the FCC this week, Representatives Bob Goodlatte and John Conyers say creators have "shared concerns" that the FCC's plan will lead us down the road to rampant piracy. You know, like Popcorn Time:
"As Members of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees our nation's copyright laws, we recognize the harm the American economy caused by the theft of copyrighted works. Creators have shared concerns that under the FCC's proposed rule, future set-top boxes or their replacements could purposely be designed to distribute pirated content obtained from sources that primarily offer stolen content. For example. apps such as Popcorn Time that focus on providing access to piratical content have tried to match the form and ease of use of legitimate apps to mark the theft of copyrighted content. Creators are legitimately worried about the prospect that future set top boxes, or their functional equivalents, could incorporate apps such as Popcorn Time or its functionality, or otherwise lead to the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted works."From the letter it's pretty clear the Representatives -- and the "creators" expressing their worry -- don't actually understand what the FCC is trying to do. Conyers and Goodlatte throw Popcorn Time into the mix seemingly at random, given the FCC's proposal has absolutely nothing to do with the app.
For better or worse, under the FCC's proposal nothing about copy protection will actually change. Users will still pay the cable industry for service, those users will just be able to access that same programming on devices from the likes of TiVO, Google, Amazon, and countless other devices that will already be in consumer homes. And while these devices are more open than cable boxes, it's bizarre to suggest this shift results in some kind of piracy free for all. In fact, having more open set top boxes not ensconced by the cable industry's walled garden approach will present consumers with access to more legitimate streaming content sources than ever before. That's what the cable industry is actually worried about.
The looming specter of piracy was also recently trotted out in an editorial by "The Walking Dead" Producer Gale Anne Hurd, who tried to argue that making the set top box market more open and competitive would only drive users to pirated content because hey -- a more open device might actually include a browser and access to the actual Internet. That's again missing the forest for the trees on an absolutely mammoth scale, ignoring that open platforms and an exponential explosion in access to streaming services means more ways to access her content legitimately than ever before.
Again, it's not clear if the people yelling about piracy just don't understand how this all works and are just being "informed" by the wrong people, or if they're intentionally aiding the cable industry and mis-characterizing what the FCC is planning (probably a combination of both). But make no mistake: the TV industry's opposition to set top box reform has nothing to do with being worried about piracy, diversity, security, or the welfare of puppies -- and everything to do with protecting a stagnant industry from market evolution and lost revenue.