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Alternate TV Takes the Hill

It was digital TV repurposing day on Capitol Hill as members of the House Commerce Subcommittee heard from executives from DVR maker TiVo and TV-on-computer company Sling Media (creator of the Slingbox).

The committee, which has held a series of hearings on fair use and digital rights management, said it wanted to hear about some of the content-delivery systems currently in use from the supply and consumer side as the Congress tries to balance fair use rights with content protection, which will happen either through legislation--to loosen or tighten copyright protections--or by spurring industry to reach a marketplace solution.

Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian argued that his product represented "place shifting," a new phase in TV viewing that met the needs of an increasingly mobile populace for TV on other than their home reciever.

Jim Denney, VP, product marketing, for TiVo, played up the legislator-friendly KidZone aspect of his recorder, which allows parents to limit recording to family-friendly shows. He said his company was absolutely opposed to piracy, but said viewers must be able to make copies for personal use. He argued against any legislation, advocating for fair use and marketplace solutions to digital content protection.

Committee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-FL) asked Krikorian whether his "place shifting" technology might not mean that a consumer would elect not to get cable in a second home by simply watching the TV in his first via the Slingbox, something that would not please the cable companies.

Krikorian said it was possible, but said that he thought, realistically, the second home would probably have a TV, like an HDTV, rather than rely on a computer or other device. Kirkorian said he felt the Slingbox was "additive," and that it would help make broadcasters more relevant in the fact of compeititon from other delivery systems. "It gives broadcasters a longer leash to reach more people in more places," he said.

Krikorian asked the committee to think about the "two guys or gals in a garage" and protect fair use, rather than forcing those innovators to have to clear some regulatory hurdle. He also called for broadcasters to push for open standards when they do deals to repurpose their content, saying letting one company, like Apple, control an interoperable standard, was not good for the market. Denney seconded that concern.