Creating a Legal, Regulatory and Legislative Structure for Broadband Video

Carl Weinschenk

By their very nature, complex legal cases take years-filings, counter filings, postponements, verdicts, appeals-running the clock and running up the bills. When multiple cases are likely to be conducted to flesh out a legal scheme around a single basic concept, observers will have a long wait before important questions are settled and the business community can get a sense of the long-term landscape. Similar processes run in parallel in the regulatory and legislative realms.


Expect all this to happen in the world of over-the-top (OTT) video. OTT is a game-changer for broadband, and the industry has started down the long road to a stable environment. The Washington Post reports on the ongoing legal proceedings between streaming site FilmOn and the networks. The site reports that a judge for the U.S. District Court of Southern New York has granted a temporary restraining order after Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC filed suit against the company for unauthorized retransmission of its signals.


The company responded that it believes it has a right to use the programming by paying a copyright royalty fee as a cable company does, but it is negotiating with the networks as the legal wheels slowly grind. The next step is a hearing to determine if the court will issue a temporary injunction.


Todd Weaver-the CEO of ivi TV, a company that is facing the same sorts of hurdles as FilmOn-posted a long commentary at FierceIPTV on the steps his company has taken to win the right to retransmit cable, broadcast and other types of content. He runs though the insurmountable challenges and resistance the company has received as it tried to work within the system to gain access to programming. Its frustration with the industry's intransigence led it to launch without the proper permissions, and led to the predictable legal problems.


Though it is possible to sympathize with Weaver as he describes the situation, his commentary also comes off as self-serving. He doesn't like the situation as it is today and suggests that it gives too much power to programmers under the sway of providers using antiquated technology. But these conditions aren't new, and it is a reality based on applicable law. Perhaps ivi should have done a more thorough job of assessing its rights and the real-world lay of the land before spending years developing its technology and being reduced to complaining that it isn't being allowed to fully exploit it.


The picture here is bigger than ivi and FilmOn. Legal, regulatory and judicial realities-which are reactions to innovation and by necessity follow it-will determine what is and isn't allowed in broadband content distribution. Online video, in all its iterations, is a huge factor in the aggressive growth charted by Cisco and others. Slowing broadband video distribution through legislation or the courts would slow growth; this would change the dynamic faced by IT departments and, to an even greater extent, carriers and service providers.

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