Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Press FCC on Copyright and Set-Top Boxes

A bipartisan group of 23 House members sent Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler a letter on Friday requesting that the agency head make sure that copyrighted programming would be protected under the FCC’s proposed rules to unlock the cable set-top box marketplace.

“The market for video and television programming is one of the most competitive sectors in the creative economy, and we encourage continued innovation in that arena,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, we are concerned about the potential unintended impact that regulations inconsistent with our copyright licensing system could have on the existing ecosystem.”

Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) led the letter that includes signatures from Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), who serves as chair of the Democratic National Committee’s chair, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), an active figure in telecom policy and the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

The letter came on the deadline day for comments about the FCC’s proposal to create a new regulatory framework to allow third party manufacturers to build devices for consumers to watch their cable content without having to rent set-top boxes from the cable provider. These new platforms could allow customers to easily switch between watching cable and other video streaming services.

The lawmakers share a fear, voiced by many in the industry, about maintaining copyright protection for content creators. “In order to keep this ecosystem intact and ensure that creators are able to make a fair living from their trade, we urge you to prevent third party competitors in the set-top box market from making commercial use of or modifying copyrighted programming without acquiring a direct license from the owner of the content,” the lawmakers said.

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