2017 Conference: New Website, New Panel

I’m pleased to announce the launch of a dedicated website for the Copyright and Technology 2017 conference.  You can find all the details about agenda, sessions, speakers, and so on.  Registration is live now, with earlybird discounts available through November 24, and there are still plenty of speaking slots available if you would like to send a proposal.

I am also pleased to announce a new partnership, in addition to the one we have now with the Copyright Society of the USA: Jaybird Communications is serving as a media sponsor and will be doing various types of outreach.  Jaybird’s president, Laurie Jakobsen, is a well-known fixture in the music industry and has attended Copyright and Technology conferences for the past several years.

Finally, I have decided to add a new panel in place of the discussion on Section 1201 of the DMCA.  The panel is called Open That Box!, and it’s about the FCC’s proposed regulations on pay-TV providers that they must make their programming available through third-party devices and apps in addition to the set-top boxes that they supply to subscribers. The latest version of this proposal calls for large operators to build their own apps for popular third-party devices instead of opening up interfaces so that third parties can do so.

As I’ve noted, this is a controversial proposal.  At first it seemed like a conflict between pay-TV operators (cable, satellite, and telco TV) on the one hand and technology companies on the other. But over the course of the debates in Washington it has become clear that copyright issues loom large in the proposal.

The studios and networks argue that requiring operators to make their signals available on third-party boxes and mobile apps means that these device makers and app developers become de facto licensees of content from movie studios and TV networks. They say that this amounts to a statutory license granted to companies like Apple, Google, Roku, and Amazon, only Congress has the authority to grant statutory licenses (the FCC is part of the executive branch of government, not the legislative branch), and that they should reserve the right to determine whether or how they want to license to these third parties.

Furthermore, studios and networks need to be assured that the content that flows to these devices and apps is protected at least as well as pay-TV operators themselves protect it.  Given that operators encounter high degrees of complexity when building their own over-the-top services and tend to do it in stages, requiring them to build such apps in a given timeframe could pose challenges.

This panel will discuss the legal as well as technical issues of the copyright-related aspects of the FCC proposal.  The outcome of the presidential election will determine the near-term fate of this proposal, given that the FCC’s five commissioners are chosen so that three are from the same party as the president.  Yet regardless of the election results, there should be plenty to talk about on January 24. If Trump wins, the current Democrat-controlled FCC will likely have pushed something through during the lame-duck session, and there will be questions about the proposal’s implementation and longer-term consequences.  If Clinton wins, then the proposal may or may not have been pushed through to a successful vote. In other words, this proposal is virtually certain to be still alive next January.

I’m accepting proposals to moderate or speak on this panel.  We’d love to have an attorney with ties to the FCC, representatives from content and tech interests, and a technical expert who can explain the issues and complexities of Hollywood content protection requirements and how they translate to whatever regulations are being considered.


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