Don Quixote Alive and Well at the FCC | Citizens Against Government Waste

Don Quixote Alive and Well at the FCC

The WasteWatcher

Rather than tilting at windmills trying to solve problems that don’t exist, government agencies should proceed with great care before imposing technical mandates on an industry.  Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) appears to be taking a “shoot from the hip” approach to regulating, and currently has its sights set on abrogating intellectual property (IP) rights.

As a consequence of its AllVid rulemaking on set-top boxes, the FCC will force cable companies relinquish their IP to third party device manufacturers by subverting existing licensing contracts between cable companies and video content providers.  The FCC would simply give such manufacturers the same access to digital content without having to pay content creators for their work. 

As noted by Motion Picture Association of America Senior Vice President Neil Fried, “The FCC’s radical proposal severs any relationship between the programmer and the third parties and explicitly refuses to prohibit third parties from improperly manipulating programming, including changing channel lineups and neighborhoods, or dropping or inserting advertising.”  This result is particularly pernicious because only intellectual property – not personal or real property – is specifically protected in the Constitution in Article 1, Section 8.   The FCC apparently has either not read or seems to care about this vital property right.

On April 20, 2016, Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz filed comments with the FCC on the AllVid notice of proposed rulemaking, noting that it “lays the groundwork for gross violations of intellectual property rights by government officials under the guise of consumer benefit.”  Schatz further noted that “By opening the door to increased video piracy, the FCC will be harming a vibrant ecosystem and condoning illegal activity.”

It is time for the FCC to take a step back from its AllVid proposal, and take a hard look at where the industry is moving.  In October, 2015, both Charter Communications and Time Warner Cable announced they would be providing their cable customers the ability to stream their video content using apps designed for Roku and other media streaming devices.  On April 20, 2016, Comcast announced that its Xfinity app would also be available on Roku and Samsung SmartTV devices.  There is no reason for the FCC to continue to pursue this Don Quixote approach to regulating.