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25 April 2016Copyright

MPAA, Comcast and NBCUniversal weigh in on set-top box proposals

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and media companies Comcast and NBCUniversal have criticised US government proposals to open up the set-top box market, citing copyright concerns.

The MPAA, along with the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, jointly filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday, April 22, to air concerns.

In a separate filing, also on Friday, Comcast teamed up with NBCUniversal to oppose the plans.

Comments on the FCC’s proposals were due on Friday by 23.59.

In February, the FCC said it wanted to open up the set-top box market so that third-party manufacturers could create platforms to integrate cable content with other video streaming options.

The aim is to allow US citizens to watch cable without having to pay monthly fees for a provider’s box.

Writing on the MPAA’s policy blog, Neil Fried, senior vice president, government and regulatory affairs at the association, said the proposals “gloss over the harm” that could be caused to the creative community.

“Copyright holders don’t sell content to viewers; they license it to distributors, who in turn make it available to viewers in exchange for subscription fees, ad revenues, or both.

“Just because a programmer licenses content to Comcast for Comcast to make available to one of its subscribers does not mean Netflix can make that content available to that same subscriber unless it, too, licenses the content,” Fried wrote.

In its own comments, Comcast and NBCUniversal called the proposals “some of the most expansive regulations ever pursued” and said the agency’s effort “far exceeds the bounds of its rulemaking authority”.

“This mandate would result in significant harms to innovation, high-quality programming, critical consumer protections like privacy and accessibility,” the companies said.

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