Copyright Alliance Defends Copyright Office Over Set-Tops

The Copyright Alliance last week weighed in in defense of Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante, who has issues with the FCC's set-top box proposal, and against the criticisms leveled at Pallante by Public Knowledge, which supports the commission.

In a FCC filing, Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of Copyright Alliance—whose members include studios, unions and some associations—called Public Knowledge's criticisms a misinformation campaign and a hurried and inaccurate attack.

"The FCC’s proposed set-top box mandate would harm creative professionals who create content that such third parties seek to exploit," Kupferschmid said in his filing. "If the FCC Proposal were to proceed without addressing the copyright concerns the Register’s letter explains, these professionals would be denied contractually and collectively bargained for compensation when that programming is exploited by third parties for free."

Public Knowledge had said the Copyright Office had relied on a "deeply flawed" analysis to conclude there were copyright issues with the FCC's "unlock the box" set-top plan and accused it of working in the interests of "some" copyright holders rather than consumers.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is trying to promote competition to cable and satellite leased set-top boxes, which now make up 99% of the market, by requiring MVPDs to make their program streams and data available to third parties. But MVPDs and content owners fear those third parties will re-aggregate and monetize that content without compensating them and in potential violation of the agreements MVPDS and programmers have struck on where and how that content can be presented.

Wheeler says he will protect contracts and copyrights, but that has not assuaged his critics.

The Copyright Office shares those copyright concerns. It also went to some lengths in the letter to suggest fair use (Public Knowledge is the most prominent fair use defender in D.C.) was not a defense for opening up the content to third parties, drawing a distinction between "unlocking the box" and consumers' home recording (time shifting performance) rights secured in the Sony Betamax case.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.