5 August 2016Copyright

US Copyright Office wades into set-top box row

The US Copyright Office has backed a group of cable television companies in their fight against proposals to free up the set-top box market.

Proposals outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would see customers able to choose devices and apps on which to watch television rather than being forced to use individual cable companies’ boxes.

Currently TV customers in the US have to pay a subscription to choose a set-top box provided for by a cable or broadcasting company.

Comcast and other cable companies including AT&T feared the plans would open the door to copyright violations and, in a letter sent to the FCC on Wednesday, August 3, the Copyright Office also criticised the plans.

Maria Pallante, US register of copyrights, said the rule would “seem to take a valuable good—bundled video programming”—created 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 still exploit the content for profit.

“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 licence terms,” Pallante added.

The FCC approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the proposals in February.

An NPRM is not a final vote and begins a public comment period before a final vote is held.

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