sxswi: Convergence of Traditional & Internet TV
or, hanging with policy wonks makes my brain hurt.
By Belinda Acosta, 4:25PM, Wed. Mar. 16, 2011
Media consumption on a three inch screen or a 60 inch screen: what's the difference? When it comes right down to it, all most of us want is to turn on the device of our choice and watch what we want to watch, when we want to watch it. Is that so much to ask?
Yes, according this insightful, if sometimes discombobulating panel. But—and this is a “but” with a capital ‘B’—that's not the way it has to be.
Panelists included Todd Weaver of the Seattle-based ivi TV, the only online-based cable provider; Michael Petricone of the Consumer Electronics Association (“we represent the providers of stuff you see when you walk into Best Buy”); and Ned Sherman, CEO and publisher of Digital Media Wire, Inc. The panelists were assembled as a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) panel for lawyers and other interested parties to learn about policy and legislation affecting media.
The media landscape is changing at a head-spinning pace. However, cable providers, satellite providers, and broadcasters aren’t so happy with these changes. They’re worried about increased “cord cutting,” and even worse, the growing legions of “cord nevers,” young people who get most, if not all, of their entertainment content online. So, cable, satellite, and broadcast industries are using their considerable resources (via lobbyists) to keep things just the way they are.
There are several, converging and competing issues here:
Who owns content?
Who is legally allowed to transmit that content?
Who is governing these elements of control?
Case in point: ivi TV is currently being sued by a group of broadcasters who accuse the small upstart of copyright infringement and breaking FCC rules. However, prior to their September 13, 2010, launch, ivi TV went through official FCC channels to get their blessing as a cable provider, pay the requisite royalty fees, and get their business started.
“The problem,” Petricone says, among many, “is that copyright law is still based on physical media. ivi is being very brave in what they’re doing. Copyright law needs to change or the FCC needs to govern the Internet.”
Case in point: The piracy question vs. open access to content. Petricone was especially vocal on this, pointing out that cries of piracy are overblown. Instead of shutting down content providers like ivi TV, he advocated for more “robust, legitimate ecosystems to broaden consumer access.”
Petricone brought up the YouTube/Viacom lawsuit a few years back. YouTube was slapped with a cease and desist order from Viacom for infringing on their copyright by showing clips of their films and other content. As the lawsuit was unfolding, it was discovered that as one arm of the media giant was gunning for the video site, another was actively sending material to YouTube, recognizing YouTube’s value in promoting the very media Viacom was suing to protect.
Petricone is not alone in declaring that if legitimate sources for consumers to access media are available, piracy would nearly end. Opening channels, instead of limiting them, serves everyone.
Case in point: AllVid. The FCC is currently proposing this industry-wide gadget that could plug into broadband AND a cable TV box to enable media consumers to watch online video and pay channels through a variety of AllVid-friendly sources. ivi TV, Google TV and others are on board. However, the cable and satellite industries are not.
There are many more facets to this subject, much more than the hour could bear. But before the panel adjourned, Petricone urged audience members to become aware of COICA (the Counter Online Infringements and Counterfeit Act), otherwise known an U.S. Senate Bill S.3804. If passed, COICA would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to bring action against or shut down any domain name “dedicated to infringing activities” and to do so swiftly, "without due process," Petricone added.
Not surprisingly, COICA supporters include Viacom and the Motion Picture Association of America, among other groups representing entertainment media. Opposing COICA are more progressive groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Although COICA passed committee last year, it was not enacted into law. The bill will be re-submitted in 2011, according to a variety of sources.
The take-away from this policy-wonky panel was that what we know and love about about the Internet now, and for innovation to continue, average U.S. consumers must be willing to learn more about what's happening behind the curtain.