Sallet: Set-Top Proposal Doesn't Threaten Copyrights

FCC general counsel Jon Sallet says the FCC's set-top proposal is not, repeat, not a threat to copyright protections.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has scheduled a vote next week (Feb. 18) on his proposal to open up cable set-top content to various third party video access devices, including ones wedding that content with over-the-top options.

Sallet said during a speech at an INCOMPAS event in Washington Wednesday (Feb. 10) that the proposal, the details of which have not been released, is meant to prevent subs from being "locked in" to cable boxes.

But one criticism, and a major one, from cable operators and the studios that supply all that content, is that "device manufacturers would be allowed to infringe on programmers’ copyrights by displaying and copying protected works through manufacturers’ own services without permission or compensation," the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the FCC.

Sallet called those copyright protections "critical."

"Programming now distributed by the MVPDs will continue to be distributed by the MVPDs, with full protection of its content, including the ability to ensure that only paying subscribers gain access to copyrighted materials and that any restrictions on copying, etc., are preserved," he said.

Sallet said the only difference is that consumers will be able to access that pay TV content via the device, or app, of their choosing.

He also said that the proposal no more threatened copyright protections "than the traditional ability of consumers to watch pay TV on the TV device of their choice or, in the mobile world, than the ability of consumers to download the apps they want, like Netflix or Amazon Video, onto the mobile devices they choose."

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.