As reported in Broadcasting and Cable today, the US Senate will be considering a bill that would make a felony the unauthorized streaming of “stolen” copyrighted work, including television programs and movies. It is already a felony to upload and download digital files of copyrighted work, and this would extend that protection to work that is streamed.
The move seems like a fair one. I believe that one should have to pay for quality content. But I’m concerned that this move could go too far and cripple time and place shifting technologies that allow users to stream video that one recorded at home. Last fall, I began using Elgato’s EyeTV hardware and software products to turn my iMac into a digital video recorder that’s connected to an over-the-air antenna. One of the nice features about this product is that it allows you to stream the content recorded on my iMac to a mobile device, like my iPhone or iPad, using an iOS app. It’s not a foolproof process—you have to wait for EyeTV to convert the raw MPEG-2 broadcast file to a H.264 file that the iPhone/iPad can actually play.
I’m concerned that a law like this would apply to technologies like this or to something that Slingbox. I’m not trafficking in this content. I’m merely shifting the location where I’m watching it from my home to somewhere else. I’m not accessing channels that I don’t have access to using perfectly legal means using an over-the-air antenna to receive broadcast signals and a perfectly legal recording device. My concern is that either the companies and personnel that produce the content or the Internet service providers that carry the data will put a stop to innovative new ways for viewers to access video content they’re authorized to use.