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Menendez Wants FCC to Clarify Set-Top Box Plan’s Copyright Protections

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) wants Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to clear up industry and lawmaker concerns about the impact the agency’s set-top box proposal could have on copyright licensing agreements.

“Protecting intellectual property through copyright is essential to ensuring the television industry continues producing new and unique programming for consumers,” Menendez wrote in a May 19 letter to Wheeler. “This programming is centered upon a contractual relationship that governs content, advertising, and channel placement.”

Menendez asked Wheeler to address concerns raised by lawmakers and businesses that third-party companies won’t abide by those contracts when they enter the cable marketplace. He also requested clarification on how the FCC’s proposal would affect minority programming, because “consumers from diverse communities depend on minority programmers for coverage of issues that are specifically important to them.”

The FCC in February passed the proposal to open up the set-top box marketplace for third-party manufacturers to offer cable content. Since then, lawmakers from both parties have raised privacy and copyright concerns, while also highlighting potentially harmful effects on minority programming.

On Thursday, a group of African American-owned media business leaders wrote to Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) voicing strong support for the proposal because of its potential to help encourage, promote and increase minority programming.

Monday is the deadline for public comments on the proposal.