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Broadband Roundup: FTC Against Public Utility Broadband Regulation, Holder Slaps Tech Industry, and FCC Video News

in FCC/Media/Media ownership/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, October 2, 2014 ­- Federal Trade Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen warned that reclassifying broadband under public utility regulation including in Title II of the Communications Act would put ISPs beyond the legal reach of the FTC, the Washington Post reported. The item was previously reported in Broadband Breakfast. Currently, the FTC is not able to bring actions against common carriers. Title II reclassification would put many more companies under such a regime.

Ohlhausen stated that she is less worried about the loss of FTC power, and more about consumers’ loss of FTC protection. While Ohlhausen and the FTC have not explicitly stated how best protect the open internet, her comments are a testament to the Commission’s conviction in the power of antitrust law to oversee internet service providers.

Holder Slaps Tech Sector on Mobile Device Encryption

Departing Attorney General Eric Holder said that new forms of device encryption, including those expected to be included in Apple’s iOS 8 and Google’s Android L, could put children at increased risk, the Washington Post reported. Holder warned that the inability to decrypt mobile device data could jeopardize investigations into time-sensitive crimes like kidnapping.

“It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy,” Holder said. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

Many privacy advocates claim that companies like Google and Apple are just adding the same type encryption that has historically been found in personal computers. Many individuals now use their personal mobile devices as their “computer.”

FCC Overturns Sports Blackout Rule, Wants Comcast Programming Contracts

In a unanimous decision, the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced that it would repeal the sports blackout rule, which commissioners called “outdated.” The rule prohibited satellite and cable operators from airing particular sports events on local broadcast stations. This often prevented local consumers from watching their teams’ games.

Separately, the FCC is asking media companies for their programming agreements with Comcast in order to aid in its review of the cable company’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. The information in the agreements, along with additional documents and data pertaining to the deal negotiations, would allow the Commission to assess the leverage the combined cable company would have over its media partners, the agency said.

However, the agency has received pushback from media companies like CBS, 21st Century Fox, Disney, and Viacom. They say their programming contracts contain “extremely sensitive business data and information, and highly proprietary and scrupulously protected terms and conditions,” reported The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. Movie Studios Launch Lawsuit Against Online Media Locker Service

in Copyright/Intellectual Property by

LOS ANGELES, February 8, 2011 — Five of the major motion picture studios in the United States on Tuesday launched the next phase of their industry’s ongoing campaign against online piracy by filing what will be a closely-watched copyright infringement lawsuit against, a so-called cyberlocker service that allows its users to share and store large media files on its servers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in the Southern District of Florida, seeks to basically shut the service down by hitting it with crippling damages of the maximum allowable amount of $150,000 per work infringed, as well as attorneys’ fees.

The studios — Columbia Pictures, Disney, Twentieth Centruy Fox, Universal City Studios, and Warner Brothers — charge that Hotfile’s business model is to goad people to upload as much copyrighted content as possible and then to make money off of downloaders by offering them memberships that would provide them faster downloads of the copyrighted material.

Uploaders are paid, and their compensation increases along with the number of downloads of the content they provided the site. The studios also say that pays other sites to host links to all of this illegal content.

The site’s operator, Anton Titov of Florida, is responsible for the massive piracy of the studios’ copyrighted content because he has taken no action to disable or discourage users’ infringing activities, the studios charge.

Thus he and his company are directly infringing upon the studios’ copyrights by hosting the content, as well as inducing Hotfile’s users to infringe upon their copyrighted works. The studios are also charging Titov with contributory and vicarious infringement.

“In less than two years Hotfile has become one of the 100 most trafficked sites in the world.  That is a direct result of the massive digital theft that Hotfile promotes.  Everyday Hotfile is responsible for the theft of thousands of MPAA member companies’ movies and TV shows – including movies still playing in theaters – many of which are stolen repeatedly, thousands of times a day, every single day,” said Daniel Mandil, general counsel & chief content protection officer for the MPAA in a statement. “The theft taking place on Hotfile is unmistakable.  Their files are indeed ‘hot,’ as in ‘stolen.’ It’s wrong and it must stop.” is just one of a whole class of emerging web sites called cyberlockers that make the distribution of large media files easier and faster online. Cyberlockers are growing in popularity as an alternative to BitTorrent, another method of sharing large media files online that uses a specific protocol and requires users to download a program.

Unlike the cyberlocker service, the BitTorrent protocol transfers bits of files between peers or users, and the rate at which file transfers happen is correlated with how many people there are sharing the content — the more the better and faster the transfers.

A recent report commissioned by NBC Universal conducted by Envisional asserts that just over five percent of global internet traffic can be attributed to unauthorized transfers of content to and from cyberlockers.

Envisional says that BitTorrent is still the favorite method for illegally sharing files, making up almost a quarter of global internet traffic.  Its report shows that piracy of movies and television content is worst in areas of the world where access to legitimate forms of online content is limited.

The studios acknowledged in their complaint that there are legitimate uses for such services online, but said that Hotfile isn’t one of them because its promotional materials incentivize people to upload content that other people will want to download.

A search on, one of the search sites that enables users to find access to the files on the cyberlocker services, turns up links to lots of popular television shows and movies.

The studios’ complaint contains dozens of examples of movies and television shows that are available without authorization on the site.

And Envisional’s recent analysis of a random sample of 2,000 cyberlocker links found that more than 90 percent of the linked-to material was copyrighted.

An e-mail to wasn’t returned, but the site clearly displays its intention to abide by US copyright law with a prominent notice on its landing page that users are required to read and agree with before they upload any files.

Large tech firms such as Google will be watching the legal developments in this case closely since they’ve bet their future on providing consumers with services, information and entertainment in “the cloud.”

The standards, if any, developed in this case could establish the boundaries of acceptable business practices by companies offering such services.

An indication of Google’s concern over this subject area has manifested itself through another lawsuit over a music cyberlocker service called MP3Tunes, which allows users to upload, store and access their music in personal lockers in the cloud. The service has been sued by EMI for copyright infringement on behalf of its users.

Mp3tunes argues that it shouldn’t be liable for copyright infringement because it abides by the take-down rules as defined by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law provides intermediaries with a “safe harbor” and shields them from liability if they respond to take-down requests promptly.

Google has filed a friend-of-the-court brief siding with

Non-Profits Seek to Block Injunction Against Rebroadcaster ivi

in Copyright/Intellectual Property/Media by

WASHINGTON, February 1, 2011 - A group of non-profit organizations filed a brief in federal district court Tuesday, opposing an injunction that would pull Internet rebroadcaster, ivi TV, off the air pending the resolution of a copyright infringement suit against it.

Public Knowledge, joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, and Open Technology Initiative filed the amicus brief with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of the rebroadcaster.  More than two dozen broadcasters, including all four major networks and Major League Baseball, have joined in the suit to stop the startup from rebroadcasting their content online.

Ivi TV, which describes itself as an online cable operator, saw a Federal Court in Seattle reject its request for a declaratory ruling that it was not infringing on broadcasters’ copyrights last week.  Ivi currently streams broadcast content from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle, as well as a selection of channels from around the world.

The Amicus brief asserts that ivi’s services are in the public interest and will foster greater competition for video distribution. It also claims that ivi fits the Copyright Act’s definition of a “cable system,”  and functions in a manner similar to current cable operators and does not alter the signals, only serving to widen the network’s audience.

The brief also states that if the court grants the injunction, ivi TV’s business would be “effectively destroyed,” whereas denying it would have no measurable impact on the networks.

“Copyright conglomerates cannot be allowed to use bogus copyright claims as a mechanism to stifle competition and innovation in the marketplace,” said Todd Weaver, ivi TV’s CEO.  “Like traditional cable and satellite TV before it, ivi TV’s role in history is to revolutionize and be an agent of constructive change giving consumers more choice and control.”

Will Copyright Law Save New York Area Baseball Fans?

in Copyright/Intellectual Property/Media/Media ownership/National Broadband Plan by

SAN FRANCISCO, October 19th, 2010 — As the landmark dispute over retransmission consent fees between Fox and Cablevision threatens to  drag on through Tuesday, New York area baseball fans who are also Cablevision subscribers are scrambling to make alternative plans to view or hear the game.

One ostensibly legal option they have is to view the Tuesday game between the San Francisco Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies on a new internet television service that retransmits broadcasters’ signals over the internet.

The Seattle-based start-up ivi launched a new service mid-September that streams live television over the internet from ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, The CW, and PBS.

Users download a program onto their computers, provide their credit card information and are promised a one-month free trial before having to pay $4.99 a month.

It’s not clear yet whether the service falls under the parameters of current copyright law, although the founders of the web site contends that it does, and have filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in federal district court against the broadcasters to establish that contention.

In a suit filed in federal district court for the Western District of Washington late September, ivi says that the Copyright Act specifically allows others to retransmit broadcasters’ signals as long as they pay the fees to the broadcasters as spelled out under federal law.

“”The Copyright Act expressly approves of the secondary transmission of an original television broadcast where the secondary transmission is subject to a statutory license,” a team of ivi’s lawyers told the court in its filing.

“ivi is not another Pirate Bay or Napster trying to gain from others’ works,” said ivi’s Founder and CEO Todd Weaver in a statement accompanying its pre-emptive lawsuit. “We recognize that it is disruptive to existing cable offerings and remain confident that we have adopted a model that is allowed under all applicable laws.”

ivi filed suit against ABC, CBS, CW Broadcasting, Disney, Fisher Communications, Fox Television, Major League Baseball, NBC Universal, Twentieth Century Fox, WGBH Educational Foundation, and

A group of 24 broadcasters and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball for their parts filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against ivi in federal district court for Southern New York just over a week later.

The group’s lawyers argued in a court filing that ivi doesn’t qualify under copyright law as a “cable system” entitled to make use of the law’s compulsory licensing provisions.

“Defendants are nothing more than publicity-seeking pirates that use the pretext of a non-existent loophole to exploit the creative efforts of plaintiffs and other broadcast stations and copyright owners for unjust profit,” the group’s lawyers wrote.

Major League Baseball has its own web site and iPAD application that streams games online live, but some people who’ve used it claim that it’s “horrible.”

Other fans who are Cablevision subscribers in New York called in Monday to a New York City public radio station to discuss ways to access Tuesday’s game online. Among the suggestions were access via “Project Free TV” and tuning into retransmission via

Cable Industry Executive Quotes to Remember in 2009

in Expert Opinion/Transparency by

Why memorable quotes from Cable Industry executives in 2009 seemed either disconnected or a predictor of the future. Judge for yourself whether these quotes have merit or are they seriously off-track with the mainstream. Only time will tell whether these executives have done their homework, or they are just [in-the-moment] statements. As an Industry executive, should these leaders be better prepared before they speak?

Disney CEO, Robert Iger on Comcast/Time Warner Authentication for TV Everywhere – April 2009

“May be an “interesting” opportunity for consumers. On the other hand, preventing people from watching any shows online unless they were cable subscribers would engender a backlash. Important not to take away online video programming that’s already out there, and not to throttle access.”

NCTA Chief, Kyle McSlarrow: on the Cable Industry’s role in the economy – April 2009

“Fortunately, we have every reason to believe that our industry will continue to be resilient and grow. And I would go further…and say that we have a central role to play in our economic recovery as well.”

Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts: on working with programmers – April 2009

“I don’t think we should put our head in the sand,” he said. “We should allow customers to get video wherever they want. We have to have really thoughtful conversations with our partners in content and make it a win-win outcome for customers and programmers, and I think we can do that.”

Time Warner Cable CEO, Glen Britt: on Tiering Broadband Access – April 2009

“If you’re downloading a movie every day, you’ll spend more per month than someone who uses the internet just to check his or her e-mail. People could end up liking it: some will end up paying less, while those people paying more may get faster service.”

Time Warner Cable CEO, Glen Britt: on TWC subscription growth – December 2009

“Time Warner Cable increasingly hears from customers who would like to buy smaller packages of channels. As an industry, cable operators “need to listen” to those kinds of concerns.”

Time Warner Cable CEO, Glen Britt on Comcast-NBC Universal Merger: – December 2009

“What we found over the years was that there were very few synergies in being vertically integrated — in fact, the rules and regulations that control how this industry behaves are such that anything people might be tempted to do in a vertically integrated company is pretty much prohibited.”

How will these quotes hold up historically in 2010? Will they be on track with the market, or will they be (in-the-moment) statements that seem to be irrelevant for the future? Vote for the best and worst quote of the year; leave a comment.

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